Childhood is the ideal time to build healthy and strong bones. Dietary intake and physical activity have the greatest effect on a child’s bones as he or she ages. Calcium is an important mineral for building strong and dense bones. If your dietary intake of calcium is low, throughout adulthood your body will extract calcium from your bones. This may result in weak and brittle bones in older adulthood. The key is building a strong foundation early. Children between the ages of 9 and 18 need 1,300 mg of calcium per day. This is when their bones are growing at the fastest rate, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Peak bone mass is reached between the ages of 18 and 25 years of age. Adults 19 and older need 1,000 mg of calcium per day.
In addition to low-fat dairy products, good sources of calcium include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and other green leafy vegetables, almonds, sesame seeds, soybeans, chick peas, calcium fortified juices and cereals.
For calcium to be absorbed by your bones, vitamin D needs to be present. Vitamin D is naturally found in fish such as salmon and tuna. The best natural source of vitamin D is cod liver oil. Eggs and cheese contain small amounts of the vitamin. Most milk products are fortified with vitamin D.
Diet alone is not enough. It is important for children and adults to be physically active. Exercise builds strength, improves posture, promotes balance to prevent falls and increases muscle mass to cushion bones. Weight-bearing exercise is any physical activity in which your body works against gravity. Examples of weight-bearing activity include push-ups, jumping jacks, brisk walking, running, tennis, weight lifting and resistance training. When combined with the diet suggestions above, you and your children will strengthen and improve the health of your bones.