When children are growing up, starting from the time right after birth, they need certain essential nutrients for healthy development of the body as a whole. Different parts of the body have requirement of different inputs which includes minerals, vitamins etc. Calcium is the most essential input which any kid should get for healthy development of bones. As per the researchers, requirement of calcium is the maximum at the time the child starts to grow as it gets stored in bones for use during later part of life. Adequate intake of calcium results in healthy bones, gums and teeth. Inadequate intake of calcium during the developing stage may result in osteoporosis during old age.
Kids of different ages have different requirement of calcium. Children up to the age of 3 require 500 mg of calcium per day, those from 4 to 8 require 800 mg of calcium per day, while beyond 8 and up to 18 requires 1300 mg of calcium per day. Milk is the best and natural source of calcium required for humans. A glass of standard milk measuring 8 oz has about 250 mg of calcium. Depending upon the age of the child, the parents should make the child drink sufficient quantity of milk.
Some children, due to a variety of reasons, may not be able to consume the desired quantity of milk and other dairy products. The reason could be allergic reaction of the body to milk and milk products, or intolerance to lactose. In case of a large population of the world the children are unable to drink milk due to financial constraints of parents.
A study conducted on child health has revealed that children fed on a diet with adequate calcium are healthier than the children deficient in calcium. These children have improved bone density and lesser chances of bone fractures. With the spread of awareness of this fact amongst the parents, calcium supplement manufacturing industry has become a billion dollar industry. Many varieties of food for kids with added calcium are available in stores with attractive labels and delicious flavours, some often with fancy price tags. Due to impact of advertisement, parents buy these products to ensure that their children are healthy.
It is a fact that absorption by the body of natural sources of calcium is better than that found in supplements. Being a crucial mineral necessary for bone strength, calcium rich food becomes an essential part of the diet. The first effort should be to serve calcium rich food. In addition to milk products, vegetables like broccoli, spinach and beans are rich in calcium and should form part of the diet plan. Eating plenty of vegetables will also provide much needed fibre and improved digestive system. The body environment will become lesser acidic, acidity makes the bones brittle.
Other items of food rich in calcium are nuts, wheat bran, cheddar cheese, oranges, grapes, yoghurt and soya milk. While buying calcium fortified foods, ensure to check the label. The food supplement should be according to the age of your child. Three types of natural food supplements are available which being rich in calcium, high in calcium and excellent source of calcium. It will be better if you consult the paediatrician before going in for a particular variety.
Tips for healthy children in respect of calcium intake and absorption are:
- Do not let children consume too many soft drinks. These contain phosphates which bring down the calcium level in the body.
- Food and food supplements, if required, should be rich in calcium and manganese.
- Check the packaging and content label before buying any product.
- Avoid overdose of calcium as it may result in headache, dizziness, tiredness and in extreme cases mental depression.