The bones in our body contain an important mineral called calcium beta hydroxybutyrate. To prevent the body from drawing the supply from the bones for its daily requirements, it is necessary to include calcium in the diet. It is especially important to give children a calcium rich diet as it is an essential nutrient to build healthy bones and teeth, in their formative years.
Calcium is not only important for strengthening the skeletal system but it also plays an important role in various body functions and helps in the development of the body. The cardiovascular system in the body is benefited with the intake of calcium. It helps in blood circulation and in the maintenance of the muscles. is also utilized by the nervous system in the body.
Dr. Kevin Lau, a well known chiropractor, has written a book on the prevention and treatment of Scoliosis, “Health in Your Hands”. He mentions his own story where his health deteriorated when he was a teenager, due to unhealthy eating habits. When he was older he gradually changed his diet through healthier options and regained his health.
Dr. Kevin Lau mentions the importance of in the diet of children for building up their bone mass. This would prevent a disease like Scoliosis from occurring.
Proper bone growth in children is important as it makes them resistant to fractures and osteoporosis in later life. According to medical studies, about 99% of calcium in a child is stored in the teeth and bones and about 1% in the blood. This small quantity in the blood controls a lot of the body functions. It helps the blood to clot, the muscles to contract, the nerves to function properly and it also helps in the absorption of other minerals. Hence it is very essential to replenish the requirements through the diet or through supplements.
Calcium is very important for the unborn baby as well. The need for calcium starts before birth and extends through the life time. The developing foetus draws on the supply from the mother’s body. Thus it is of utmost importance for the pregnant woman to include rich food in her diet and also to take additional supplements to meet the needs of both her body and that of her unborn child. Breast milk and infant formulae are rich in calcium. The bones are forming and growing till about the age of eighteen when about ninety percent of the adult bone mass is established.
It is recommended that children from the age of one to three years should be given 500 mg of calcium daily. From the age of four years to eight years they should consume at least 800 mg of and the older children should have at least 1,300 mg of for a healthy development of bones and teeth. The higher level of calcium is especially important once children reach puberty.
Dairy food is a popular and well known source of calcium. That is why milk is important to a child’s diet. One cup of milk contains 300 mg of calcium. The important nutrients in milk are easily digested. The blood stream can easily absorb the from pure milk with the help of certain enzymes found in milk. It should be noted that pasteurized milk is difficult to digest and also low in calcium. Other dairy products such as cheese and yoghurt are also rich in calcium and should be included in a child’s diet.
Vitamin D is important for the absorption of calcium from the food. This prevents the loss of calcium from the bones. Vitamin D can be absorbed from the sun and can also be found in food like egg yolk, fish oil and fortified cereals and milk.
Non dairy food which is rich in should also be added to a child’s diet, especially if the child is allergic to milk and dairy products. These could include
Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli
Vegetables such as onions, carrots, Chinese cabbage, Brussels sprouts and parsley
Nuts such as almonds, hazel nuts, walnuts, pecans and pistachios
Beans such as black beans, Lima beans, kidney beans etc.
Fruits such as raisins, apricots, tangerines and prunes, to mention just a few
Bread and grain products such as enriched wheat bread, multi grain bread, Granola, oat flakes, brown rice, taco shells, soy flour, oatmeal etc.
Fish such as herring, salmon, shrimps, sardines, haddock, etc.
Meat such as rabbit, steak, liver, venison, turkey and ground beef, to name a few.
Soups such as cream of celery or asparagus are rich in calcium. Tofu and soy milk can be added to the diet for variety. Buttermilk, pineapple juice and tangerine juice have a supply of calcium. Non fat dried milk is rich in and can be added to creamed soups, waffles, milk poured on cereals, pancakes, mashed potatoes and cooked cereals.
There are a number of ways to make a meal appealing to a child’s taste and yet adding the necessary amount of to the diet.
Milk can be added to desserts such as puddings and custards.
Frozen yoghurts and even ice creams are generally eaten with relish by kids and can provide a sufficient quantity of calcium.
Yoghurt can be blended into fruit smoothies and also be used as dips.
Cheese can be grated onto vegetables, pasta and even eggs to give these dishes a calcium boost.
Milk shakes with chocolate or strawberry syrups make a healthy calcium fortified snack in the evening or even at breakfast.
Milk should be added to breakfast cereals, oatmeal and porridge to start the day with a healthy diet.
Orange juice, fortified with calcium is now available in the markets and can be included in the child’s diet.
Salmon with the bones is rich in calcium and can be had in sandwiches to make a savoury change to the diet.
Tofu can be stir fried with vegetables or added to other food to make a dish rich in calcium and other vitamins.
A lot of food is now fortified with calcium, such as breakfast cereals, oatmeal, English muffins, soy milk, bread and orange juice.
Calcium deficiency in children can lead to weakened bones and teeth and in extreme cases it can also cause rickets. Vitamin D deficiency is the main cause for rickets. Due to the lack of this vitamin, calcium cannot be absorbed properly and this can lead to skeletal and dental deformities. Muscle spasms, a tendency to fractures and growth disturbances can occur due to a deficiency of calcium and Vitamin D.
When a child is not getting enough calcium through the diet the pediatrician may prescribe calcium supplements. For children, these supplements are available in delicious flavors and attractive colours. If taken regularly they build up the bone density in the child and prevent illnesses.
Children should be discouraged from consuming soft drinks as the phosphates in them reduce the absorption of calcium. It is always better to give children natural food which is rich in calcium or food which is fortified with calcium. Supplements should only be given if there is insufficient calcium in the diet. Children and parents should be made aware of the importance of calcium in the diet.
Dr Kevin Lau DC is the founder of Health In Your Hands, a series of tools for Scoliosis prevention and treatment. The set includes his book Your Plan for Natural Scoliosis Prevention and Treatment, a companion Scoliosis Exercises for Prevention and Correction DVD and the innovative new iPhone application ScolioTrack.
Dr Kevin Lau D.C. is a graduate in Doctor of Chiropractic from RMIT University in Melbourne Australia and Masters in Holistic Nutrition from Clayton College of Natural Health in USA.