Calcium and Vitamin D – A Healthy Recipe for Healthy Bones
We all know that calcium helps to build strong, healthy bones. And many also know that vitamin D works as a ‘helper’ - one if its functions is to assist in the absorption of calcium. But what you may not know is how little of both of these nutrients our kids are getting.
A report just issued this summer from the USDA said that calcium and vitamin D intake among kids were low enough to be ‘of public health concern’. And when you look at the statistics, it’s easy to see why. By the time they reach the age of 9, 85% of girls and nearly 75% of boys don’t meet their calcium requirement, and only about half of all kids get enough vitamin D.
Dairy products are the primary source of calcium, and most are fortified with vitamin D, so we look to dairy first to help meet needs. Kids ages 4-8 need the equivalent of 2 cups of milk a day; by the age of 9, they need 3 cups a day – and that recommendation pretty much stands throughout life. But just when kids’ needs for calcium and vitamin D start rising during adolescence, is the time when their intake of these important nutrients starts to drop off.
Why is so hard to get kids to drink milk? For some it’s an issue of taste – sweet sodas and fruit-flavored drinks are more appealing than a glass of milk. Others might have trouble digesting lactose, the natural sugar in milk. Some teens skip milk because they’re watching their weight. Others are vegetarian, and some just feel that milk is for baby cows to drink, not people.
How can we help our kids to get more of these bone-builders? Dairy foods are an obvious first choice, since they’re naturally calcium-rich. A cup of milk or a single-serve carton of yogurt supplies about a third of kids’ daily calcium needs – and they’re vitamin D fortified. Try milk in place of water when you cook rolled oats or when you heat up a can of soup. Other dairy products like low fat cheese and cottage cheese can help fill in the gaps.
For kids who can’t or won’t do dairy, you can try fortified soy milk or calcium-fortified orange juice; some breakfast cereals and even breads are also have calcium added. If your kids will eat them, leafy greens, tofu and beans are good calcium sources too.
Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin – it’s manufactured under the skin when exposed to sunlight. And it doesn’t take much to meet daily needs – it’s been estimated that just 10 minutes of sunlight on your arms and legs in the warmer months will do it. It is all the more reason, then, to spend some time being active outdoors. During colder months, more attention to diet, and perhaps supplementation, is in order.
Getting enough of these calcium and vitamin D at any stage of life is important. But bone mass builds rapidly during the teen years, and bone development reaches its peak before the age of 30. So laying a good foundation during childhood is vitally important to ensure a healthy skeleton later on.
Susan Bowerman is a paid consultant to Herbalife.