Calcium is an essential nutrient that is best known for its role in helping to build strong bones as well as keep muscles and nerves in working order. It’s also crucial for good heart health.
Any parent will understand the importance of making sure their children get the appropriate amount of nutrients to ensure healthy growth and development. However, so parents raising children may not understand much about this nutrient or how to make sure their offspring are getting an adequate amount of it.
The following will take a look at some information you need to know about your children and calcium.
Why do children need a good calcium intake?
When we are growing up, we only get one chance to develop strong bones and this is while we are small children and teenagers. Starting adult life with an optimal intake means have the strongest possible bones that will decay much slower later in life.
Calcium and vitamin D are also important for the prevention of rickets in young children. Rickets is a disease that softens bones, stunts growth and can cause soreness in the muscles.
Sources of calcium
Calcium is nutritionally sourced from food. Dairy foods like milk, yogurt and cheese are some of the best sources. There is the same level of the nutrient in all dairy products regardless of their fat content.
For children who are lactose intolerant, they can source their dairy needs from the following:
- Vegetables like broccoli, kale, chard and other leafy varieties
- Sesame seeds and almonds
- Chickpeas, red beans, white beans
- Prunes, organs and figs
Due to the importance of calcium in a child’s diet, it is often included in juice, cereal and other kid-centric foods.
What amount of calcium does a child need?
The amount of calcium a healthy child requires will obviously depend on their age. While supplements can be useful in some circumstances, it’s better that the child gets most if not all of their supply from food sources.
Newborns and babies
Babies will get the majority of their calcium from formula or their mother’s breast milk. Those under 6 months need 200 mg a day while those between 6 to 11 months need 260 mg a day.
Babies under 1 year of age should not be given any kind of milk other than breast milk and formula.
Growing kids and teenagers
As the growth of children accelerates, they will require more calcium to support their skeletal development.
1-3 years old: 700 mg a day
4-8 years old: 1000 mg a day
9-18 years old: 1300 mg a day
How to ensure children get enough calcium
Babies will obviously need to get all they need from either formula or breast milk. Growing children and those going through adolescence will need even more of it from other food sources such as dairy products.
It’s important to educate children early on about the importance of this nutrient in their diet and how it will help to prevent issues with their bones and muscles later in life. Don’t rely on store-bought flavoured milk products as they can have an overabundance of sugar when compared with their calcium content.
Also, try to make sure that your children aren’t drinking to many carbonated fizzy drinks as the phosphoric acid present has the ability to interfere with nutrient absorption. It would be better to replace these fizzy drinks with some fresh orange juice which is rich in both vitamin C and calcium.
As you can see, there is quite a bit to understand when it comes to this essential nutrient. Hopefully the above information will help you to ensure that your children grow up with healthy and strong bones.