Calcium is a mineral needed for the construction and maintenance of children’s bones and teeth. It is necessary for the proper functioning of nerves and muscles, the clotting of the blood, and the transport of other minerals in the body. That’s why all parents care so much about our children taking what’s necessary every day.
But how much do they need depending on their age and what are the sources to acquire it?
It is found in milk and other dairy products such as cheese, vegetables, nuts, and legumes. If your child doesn’t eat or drink dairy products, the chance of calcium deficiency is high. The risk of interrupted bone development at an early age and bone decalcification over time increases.
It is important to know and keep in mind that vitamin D stimulates calcium absorption in the body.
What does calcium contain?
It is found mainly in milk and other dairy products such as cheese, but also in green vegetables.
But it’s also good to know that there are other lesser-known sources, such as soy products and bread.
Examples of calcium source for children:
– Milk: 240 ml contains approximately 300 milligrams.
– Yogurt: 200 ml contains approximately 200 milligrams
– White beans: 100 gr contain approximately 100 milligrams.
– Almonds: 30 grams contain approximately 80 milligrams.
– Cooked broccoli: 100 gr contains approximately 30 mg.
Milk and derivatives are the best and most readily available sources of calcium. But who should consume what kind of milk?
– Children under one year of age should not drink whole milk and derived products due to the risk of milk allergy. It is recommended that you keep breast milk or formula during this first year of life. Some doctors may say it is preferable to give your little formula than whole milk if they are 1 year old, there are different opinions about this.
-Children between one and two years of age can drink whole milk and derivative products for their growth and brain development.
-After the second year of life, children may switch to semi-skimmed or skimmed milk, after consulting and discussing with the pediatrician.
Milk, regardless of type (skimmed, semi-skimmed, or whole), contains approximately the same calcium content per unit.
Some children refuse to drink milk, so when children don’t want or can’t tolerate it, fortunately, there are many low-lactose or lactose-free products available.
During childhood and adolescence, the body uses calcium to build strong bones. From adulthood, there is a progressive decrease in calcium absorption by the body, and this phenomenon increases as we age. Therefore, it is essential that we develop the highest possible calcium potential during the growth phase.
Adolescents, especially girls who neglect this, have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis, which means an increased risk of bone fractures due to weakened bones.
In addition, calcium plays an important role in muscle contraction, as it is used, among other things, in the transmission of messages through nerves and in the release of hormones. If the concentration of calcium in the blood is low (due to poor calcium intake), the body will remove calcium from the bones to continue functioning properly. In combination with poor calcium consumption in the diet, this will affect the long-term strength of the bones. When children get enough and engage in physical activity during their childhood and adolescence, they begin their adult life with the strongest bones.
Guidance on current recommendations for calcium intake are as follows:
Calcium for children of one year and older?
1-3 years: 500 milligrams of calcium a day
4-8 years: 800 milligrams of calcium a day
9-18 years: 1300 milligrams a day
Calcium absorption in children
In dairy products, it is mainly in the form of calcium phosphate. This form is absorbed well by the intestine. Other forms are also used in supplements, such as calcium citrate malate or in vitamins with iron as well. The gut absorbs these forms even better, but these differences are so small that they have no practical importance.
Vitamin D ensures that the intestines absorb calcium properly and are needed to fix calcium in the bones. That’s why many pediatricians advise taking a vitamin D booster up to age four.
It is good to note that for example, oxalic acid reduces calcium absorption in the body. Oxalic acid is found in certain vegetables such as rhubarb and spinach. The phytic acid substance also counteracts calcium absorption. Phytic acid is found mainly in grains. As long as your diet provides enough calcium and eat a varied diet, there’s no problem eating these products.
Because of salt, alcohol, and caffeine in coffee, tea, and cola, the body loses a little more calcium in the urine. If you have a teenager, it’s important to keep that in mind.
Increase calcium intake
There are always children who don’t want to know anything about dairy products. That’s why you should try to be creative at meals:
– Add cheese to meals or snacks.
– Add some cheese to your tortillas.
– Add some light cheese to your sandwiches or make toasted cheese.
– Serve cookies with low-fat cheese.
– Offer your little milkshakes or milk with chocolate but not too much because it contains a lot of sugar.
– Low-fat yogurt with fruit or fruit chips can be a good choice for breakfasts and snacks.
– Offer cold milk after consuming your favorite cookies or when it comes from playing or running.
It includes non-dairy foods that are high in your diet, such as:
– While shopping, look for calcium-fortified products such as bread and grains.
– Serve enough vegetables such as broccoli and spinach at meals.
Although it’s best for children to get their calcium through their diet, sometimes it’s impossible to do so. In that case, you should talk to the pediatrician to see if there are any supplements that may be prescribed, and if necessary, that may refer you to a dietitian to prepare a diet.
Also, keep in mind that children should be physically active for good bone health. When they jump, walk, play, or play sports, they are helping to have good bone endurance. There are even studies that claim that physical activity is maybe even more essential than calcium intake for good bone health.
All the information we give you in this article is indicative since each child and each family is different so to establish a diagnosis and treatment it is essential that you go to your doctor.
Carolina González Ramos
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