Reason Why Children Need Calcium
by April Chalk
Calcium, a soft gray alkaline metal, is the most abundant mineral in the human body. More than 90 percent of the body's calcium is stored in the bones and teeth. Many children do not consume enough calcium to meet the needs of their growing bodies.
Calcium is vital for the growth and development of strong bones and teeth, and children develop the most bone mass between the ages of 10 and 18 years. Calcium is also used for muscle contraction, transmission of messages through the nerves, and the release of hormones and enzymes in the body.
Young children who do not consume enough calcium and vitamin D are at risk for developing rickets. Rickets is an illness which causes improper bone growth, softening of the bones and commonly leads to bowed legs. Teenagers (especially girls) who do not consume enough calcium have a higher risk of developing osteoporosis, a disease that causes weak and brittle bones.
The National Institute for Child Health and Human Development recommends that infants ages 0 to 6 months consume 210 mg of calcium each day, infants 6 to 12 months consume 270 mg per day, and toddlers ages 1 to 3 years consume 500 mg per day. For children ages 4 to 8 years the recommended amount is 800 mg, and children 9 to18 years should consume 1,300 mg of calcium per day.
Calcium-rich foods include dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheese, as well as almonds and green vegetables like broccoli and collard greens. Many other foods like orange juice, breads and cereals are fortified with calcium to supplement dairy intake and to provide vegetarian children with high-calcium options.
A diet with proper amounts of calcium also needs to include vitamin D which is essential to the body's absorption of calcium. Good sources of vitamin D include eggs, fish, and fortified milk and cereals. Moderate exposure to sunlight also provides the body with vitamin D.