Updated: August 2, 2018 10:04:16 am
Make sure your child gets the right diet and exercise to build strong bones for a lifetime!
By Dr Kuldip Gurunath Paike
Childhood is the age that builds a foundation for bone health. Almost all the bone density is built when we are children or in our teens and the entire process ends by the age of 20.
While genetics influence bone development and bone density, a child’s dietary habits and physical activity strongly determine the health of bones as they grow. However, it’s the duty of parents to ensure the proper growth of their child.
How can you build strong bones?
High calcium foods
Encourage your kids to have high calcium foods. Calcium, a mineral commonly known for building healthy bones, is not only found in dairy products but also beans, nuts and seeds. If the child is keen to eat dairy products, ask the dietician about the quantities to be served depending upon the age of the child. Look for replacements of common food items with high calcium versions.
Vitamin D supplement: Since most kids don’t like to eat foods that contain Vitamin D, healthcare providers recommend a Vitamin D supplement because it helps absorb calcium. Even small babies are recommended to take Vitamin D.
Vitamin K: Vitamin K is found in green vegetables like kale, cabbage, spinach and broccoli. The rest of the vitamin that we absorb is from the good bacteria found in the colon.
Magnesium: Almonds, spinach, peanut butter, black beans, kidney beans and avocado are good sources of magnesium. Encourage your child to eat these.
Encourage kids to exercise
Our muscles get stronger only when we use them. Similarly, bones also get stronger this way. Let your children indulge in walking, jumping and climbing, which are all generally good for building bones. These activities use the force of the muscles and gravity to put pressure on the bones. The pressure helps to build stronger bones. Children can safely lift weights as long as they are directly supervised and can follow directions. Activities like bike riding, however, are not connected to weight-bearing pressure, but just help in overall health.
Every individual needs calcium, vitamin D and exercise as a regime. However, it’s really important for children, especially when they are growing up, in their teens and pre-teens. Give the best nutrients to your little ones and avoid feeding them processed foods, because they are robbed of the nutrients required by the body, creating a bad impact on bones. Make your children go out in the sun as it helps the body to absorb Vitamin D, which makes the bones stronger. Encourage them to indulge in activities and maintain a healthy weight; being underweight can also increase the risk of having osteoporosis by further reducing bone density and leading to bone loss at a later age.
(The writer is a consultant at Fortis Hospital in Bannerghatta Road, Bengaluru.)
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