Kim’s two years old recently fell down from a chair. To her surprise and dismay, her daughter suffered a fracture due to this. Kim thought that the fall was not that drastic that one suffers from a fracture. However, the doctor made her realize that the fracture was the result of not just the fall but also her fragile bones. The doctor then advised her to build better bones of her toddler so that she does not fall trap to bone ailments like osteoporosis later in life.
As parents, we are always worried about the health of our kids. We wish that our kids never fall ill. In fact, a single scratch on their wrists while playing can move us. As kids, our diet used to be quite healthy because of many reasons. However, in this age of exposure to junk food, we want to make sure that our kids’ diet is wholesome – all this for a healthy body and even strong bones. I had read an article on the internet – the habits that we inculcate in our kids at an early age last for their entire life. The best time to build strong and healthy bones of our kids is NOW – their childhood. Strong bones are a result of good food and exercise. However, they are influenced by genetics as well.
Fast Fact: Most of the bone density is built during the phase of childhood and teenage.
You might be aware that our hair and skin are tissues and they constantly grow and shed down. Just like them, even bones are living tissues. Bones, too, are built on a constant basis. They broke down and build up regularly. But, childhood and teenage are the phases when most of the bone density has been built. The process is at its peak when a person nears twenty years of age. After this, the cycle of bone development slows down considerably. And as a person ages, bones get weaker. Hence, it is necessary that as parents you concentrate on building bones of your children.
Important Steps for Bone Building in Kids
1. Calcium is Important, Dairy is Not
When you think of bones, the first word that pops into your mind is calcium. It is important that your kid gets a healthy dose of calcium on an everyday basis as the body loses calcium daily. It is necessary that levels of calcium are replenished to ensure strong bones. For many parents in Asia and abroad, Calcium equivalents milk. While to some extent this holds true, I do not support milk completely. In fact, I am not dependent on milk for the calcium needs of my toddler. Apart from dairy products, calcium is present in beans, some of the nuts, and even leafy green vegetables. Nowadays, calcium is also present in fortified products like orange juice and some cereals.
Good sources of calcium for your kid are greens. With so many choices of green leafy veggies available, you will never run out of options for your baby. So, you can begin with mustard greens and continue with broccoli, collards, turnip greens, Brussels sprouts, kale, and so on and so forth. The reason greens are suggested for calcium replenishment is these are loaded with calcium that is highly absorbable. Plus, they even make up for other nutrients required for your kids’ health. The downside is that the calcium per serving in these is low but calcium per calorie is quite high – meaning, the calcium these contain is absorbed quite quickly.
Even beans are brimming with calcium. Include chickpeas in your kid’s diet. The beauty of beans is that they are available in so many forms – flour, roasted, baked, etc. Calcium from beans too is easily absorbable. Tofu is quite good for bone health in early years. With a variety of options for calcium-enriched food, your kids will not get bored of the same type. To ensure that your kid is getting a calcium-rich diet, list down his dietary habits and meals. Find out whether the amount of calcium that your toddler gets from the present diet is enough. You can then consult your pediatrician if need be.
Fast Fact: Bones are composed of 50% solid matter while the rest 50% is water.
2. Do Not Skip Vitamin D
The easily available source of Vitamin D is sunlight. It is free and within your reach. The best thing about this source is that it is to be absorbed by the skin, without any hassles. Vitamin D is quite important for bone health. The role of this vitamin is to control the use of calcium in the body. Deficiency of Vitamin D in kids can lead to several bone-related ailments like Rickets. In case if there is no sunlight available in the area where you live, you can take Vitamin D supplements on the advice of your health provider. Nowadays, you can even find Vitamin D fortified food products in supermarkets. Take, for instance, breakfast cereals, yogurt, soy beverages, margarine, orange juice, etc.
A note of caution though – too much of Vitamin D can lead to problems as well. Hence, it is advisable to get in touch with your healthcare provider for guidance.
3. Important Nutrients
When one thinks of bone health, the first two things that come to mind are Calcium and Vitamin D, in the same order. However, the lesser-known nutrients that are essential for strong bones are Vitamin K, Vitamin C, potassium, and magnesium as well. They are present in a variety of fruits, vegetables, and other foods and can be easily consumed.
Include foods like Kale, Mustard Greens, Turnip Greens, Swiss chard, Spinach, Broccoli, Cabbage, Parsley, Soy products, beans, and others to fill up on Vitamin K. It is necessary for strengthening bones by making up for required protein.
Vitamin C is readily available in citrus fruits like lemon and orange, guava, red pepper, kiwi, strawberry, tomato, black currant, papaya, etc. It is responsible for the formation of collagen and normal bone development.
Magnesium is responsible for regulating parathyroid hormone that prevents the breakdown of bone in several ways. Stock up on spinach, dark chocolate, almonds, Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, beans, green leafy veggies to make sure that level of magnesium is balanced in your body.
If you desire to pump up potassium in your body, then the good sources are avocado, sweet potato, dried apricot, coconut water, banana, pomegranate, and others. Potassium maintains bone mineral density in kids. It even helps in neutralizing the acids in the body that lead to loss of calcium.
Fast Fact: A human body is born with 300 bones but eventually ends up with 206. This is because bones fuse together as a person grows.
4. Role of Exercise
Exercise is quite important for good bone health. It does not only make muscles stronger and help reduce weight but also helps in keeping the bone stronger and prevents bone-related issues. The more you exercise, the better are your bones. Expose your kids to the world of sports. Include at least one hour of physical activity in your kids’ schedule. Put their bones to work in order to improve bone density. Kids can do simple weight-bearing exercises like jumping ropes, running, stair climbing, skiing, jumping, and others. Read more about how to inculcate exercise habits in kids.
5. Things to Avoid
While you may be just concentrating on building the bone health of your kids, you also need to take caution regarding the loss of bone. A fact is that bones form and breakdown on a regular basis as a part of a process. In order to improve the health of bones in your children, you also need to prevent the loss of calcium and other minerals. Healthcare experts suggest limiting excessive salt, avoiding smoking, evading caffeinated drinks, etc. can prevent bone loss in the early years. Increasing levels of salt in the body can seep the levels of calcium present in the bones.
Fast Fact: It takes 12 weeks on an average for a broken bone to heal completely.
As a parent, if you prevent this loss of calcium, you will not need to up the intake of calcium-enriched foods to a great extent. If your kid prefers eating ready-to-eat snacks like wafers, chips, canned goods, etc. you need to take caution. These are high in both salt and sodium, bad for the bone health of your kid. Also, limit the caffeine in your kid’s diet. You might not be aware that your kid is consuming high levels of caffeine, unknowingly. Nowadays, along with coffee, beverages like soda and energy drinks contain a high level of caffeine. Caffeine leads to loss of calcium from the body. Make sure your kid makes water his first choice for quenching thirst.
Parents, at the present time, concentrate more on increasing the overall weight of their kids. However, instead of focusing on the result, you need to make sure that the diet of your children is balanced. Include all kinds of nutrients and foods in their diet. Ensure that their eating habits are regular and healthy. All this will automatically result in good bone health and normal development of your kids. In the growing years of your children, instill good eating habits and physical activities to ensure a healthy life throughout. Happy and Healthy parenting to you!