Calcium for Healthy Strong Bones
One of the most important things you can do for your child is give them as much variety in their diet as possible; this ensures their food provides all the necessary nutrients for growth and healthy development. Growing healthy little bones requires a few important factors such as consuming enough calcium, the important mineral making bones strong, absorbing enough Vitamin D, getting plenty of energetic exercise and minimising breaks. Bones grow continuously for approximately 20 years so it is absolutely essential for children to obtain enough calcium and vitamin D throughout their peak growing years. After this time it is virtually impossible to lay down extra bone – it’s the time for keeping them strong. Every year in Australia we have healthy bones week dedicated to highlight the importance of healthy bone growth for all Australians (http://www.healthybones.com.au/).
Here are a few essential steps to ensure your kiddies maximise their bone growth
1. Getting enough dietary Calcium
Aussie children get most of their calcium from dairy foods however according to the Australian Nutrition Survey; about 70 per cent of children do not achieve the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for calcium. Breast milk, infant formula and toddler milk drinks and milks such as cow and goat’s milk contain a readily absorbable form of calcium. One cup of these contain approximately 300 mg of calcium which is over half of a toddlers daily requirements. Children 1-3 years need about 500mg of calcium from their diet which increases to 700mg for a 4-7 year old. The best dietary sources of calcium are milk and milk products such as yoghurt, cheese, custard and buttermilk. Calcium fortified milks can provide larger amounts of calcium in a smaller volume of milk – ranging from 280mg to 400mg per 200ml milk.
2. Maximising calcium absorption
Vitamin C (found in fruits and vegetables) and lactose (the natural sugar found in milk) have been shown to enhance the absorption of calcium from food. Vitamin D on the other hand works with various hormones in little bodies to increase calcium uptake. Vitamin D is necessary to change calcium from the diet into a form little bodies can absorb. Vitamin D can either be obtained from food ( the best sources include fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon, eggs, fortified milks, fortified cereals and mushrooms that have been exposed to ultra violet light) or produced in the skin when it is exposed to sunlight. 80% of our Vitamin D comes for exposure to the sun with the requirement being just a few minutes of sun on hands, arms and face every day in summer and 2-3 hours per week in winter.
3. Finding alternatives if there is an allergy or dislikes to milk
If littlies don’t eat enough calcium rich foods then this can weaken bones. The body detects that not enough calcium is circulating in the blood reduces the amount lost through the kidneys in the urine. This results in calcium being removed from the bones making them weak and brittle. Finding other sources of calcium is important; Soy and tofu or tempeh and calcium fortified soy drinks provide good sources of calcium as does fish such as sardines and salmon (with bones). Half a cup of canned salmon contains 402mg of calcium. Leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, bok Choy, Chinese cabbage and spinach all contain calcium. One cup of cooked spinach contains 100mg; however this calcium is poorly absorbed due to the high concentration of oxalate, a compound in spinach that reduces calcium absorption. By contrast, one cup of cooked broccoli contains about 45mg of calcium, but the absorption from broccoli is much higher. Brazil nuts, almonds and sesame seed paste (tahini) contain small levels of calcium; fifteen almonds contain about 40mg of calcium.
Fortified foods offer an excellent alternative to milk based foods and contribute excellent amounts of calcium to the diet. 1 cup of calcium fortified breakfast cereal (40g) contains up to 200mg of calcium as does 2 slices of fortified bread (30g).
4. Using calcium supplements
It is much better to children to get calcium from their foods (which also provide other nutrients) than from calcium supplements. However If you are having difficulty getting your little ones to eat enough foods rich in calcium, you may need to consider a calcium supplement. It’s a good idea to discuss this with your pharmacist, Dietitian or health care professional.
5. Factors that can weaken bones
Some lifestyle factors may reduce calcium in your children’s bones and lower bone density (weaken bones). These include
- Excess salt in their diet: don’t add salt to their food and resist buying salty foods such as chips, crackers and excess takeaway foods
- Caffeine-containing drinks: for example coffee, cola and tea. Avoid those fizzy drinks and order a baby chino …without coffee!
- Excessively high intakes of fibre: more than 50g per day – which would be very unusual for most children
Quick ideas to increase calcium using Farmers Beta A2 Nutritional Toddler Milk
- Use on their cereal and leave it in the bowl for a few minute to soak in (less will be tipped away)
- Make cheese sauces for pasta or over vegetables
- Make a fruit smoothie for afternoon tea
- Blend fruit and Beta A2 milk drink and freeze for dessert
- Use instead of milk when making pikelets, pancakes or scones to make every bite count.
- And much more