Those Growing Bones

By Pamela Williams, MPH, R.D.

Photo by Pixabay

Getting our kids to eat healthy can be quite a task but being persistent has its benefits. One benefit is supporting the growth of healthy bones and teeth.

As children grow, the body demands calcium to support bone development. Infants need calcium so that bones can increase to support their ever growing weight and size. Calcium from breast milk and/or formula meet the infants’ need. However when they become toddlers and children, they need a steady supply.

Between the ages of 10 – 15 years old, the weight of bones double1 but this is the time growing children and teenagers abandon calcium sources. This compromises bone density and bones are more vulnerable to breakage. For example, children and teenage boys who don't get enough calcium have more forearm breakages than those who do get enough calcium.

When teenagers and children have low calcium intakes, they increase their risk for osteoporosis or brittle bones as they get older. Here's why. During teen years and up to age 25, bones increase in density. After this, the body maintains density. When we reach 40 years old, we start to lose calcium. If we do not have significant stores, our bones can become brittle in the later years of life. What we do now for growing bones can affect our children’s bones in later years.

Where do we get calcium? One of the most abundant sources of calcium is from milk and dairy products. What are the best sources? Keeping a steady supply of milk, cheese and yogurt in the daily diet will help keep bones strong. If milk sources cannot be digested due to allergies for example, there are other sources of calcium. Soy, almond and rice beverages can be a source of calcium. Don't forget to read the label to make sure calcium has been added. Broccoli, beans, bok choy, spinach, almonds, tortillas and tofu with calcium sulfate are other sources that contain calcium. Getting these foods in the diet will help provide calcium for bones.

Don’t forget that growing bones need more than calcium. Other nutrients to support bones include vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, boron, fluoride, iron and many others. Eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, will help meet the demands for these nutrients.

How much calcium do growing bones need?

Calcium Requirements*

Birth to 6 months  - 210 mg
6-12 months  - 270 mg
1-3 years old  - 500 mg
4-8 years old  - 800 mg
9-18 years old  - 1,300 mg