30, Aug 2020

How much calcium does a child need?

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What is calcium?

Calcium (Ca) is most known for being a significant mineral in building bones. The common misunderstanding, however, is the more we ingest calcium, the better our bones become. However, is this true? How do you know if your kid is getting just the right amount of calcium in their bodies?

Aside from aiding in building strong bones, calcium is also important for healthy nerves and muscles. In fact, calcium is required by the heart to beat and pump out blood to our organs because it regulates muscle contraction. Consequently, Calcium also regulates blood pressure and even helps in blood clotting.

How much calcium is enough?

The Institute of Medicine in the United States recommends 700 mg of calcium for toddlers 1 to 3 years old. For children 4 to 8 years old, they recommend 1,000 mg of calcium daily while for 9 to 18 years old, 1,300 mg of calcium is recommended.

What should I watch out for?

Families living in Southeast Asia, in particular, have to be more mindful of their calcium intake because recent studies in Brown University have shown that this region had very low rates of calcium consumption both in children and adults. On the other hand, Northern Europe came out to be the highest calcium-consuming region in the world.


What’s the challenge?

Although calcium is a must-have mineral in a child’s diet, the current lifestyle and trends in food and beverages industry today make it difficult for us parents to keep calcium in our kids’ daily food consumption. More and more teens are into drinking soda than milk, the statistics for teens using vape or cigarette is on the rise, and drinking caffeinated beverages in public have become the popular means for socialization as much as alcohol back in the days.

 Why is this alarming? These practices does not only lessen the opportunity for calcium consumption, they even lessen the body’s ability to absorb the little calcium left in their diet. For example, cigarettes block the absorption of calcium and other important nutrients such as vitamins C and D. As for alcohol, you can imagine it as a corrosive that reverses bone formation in your body – not that it makes your bones smaller, but studies have shown that high levels of cortisol due to high alcohol consumption makes the bones brittle and more prone to fractures. What a waste of calcium, right?

On the other hand, caffeine is not as alarming as cigarettes but remember to keep it in moderation and add two other three tablespoons of calcium-rich milk into your cup when you get the chance.

How do we overcome this?

Well, being aware of the problem is the first step. Now that we are done with that, the next thing we have to do is to be conscious of the most common and available sources of calcium in our community. Take a look at the list below for a list of dairy and non-dairy products that have high calcium content according to Johns Hopkins Medicine:

Serving Size Food or Beverag Calcium Content
6 ounces (177 ml) plain low-fat yogurt 311 mg
8 ounces (237 ml) milk 300 mg
2 ounces (57 grams) American cheese 300 mg
1½ ounces (43 grams) cheddar cheese 300 mg
4 ounces (113 grams) calcium-fortified tofu 260 mg
½ cup (118 ml) collard greens (cooked from frozen) 178 mg
4 ounces (118 ml) calcium-fortified orange juice 150 mg
4 ounces (113 grams) ice cream, soft serve 120 mg
½ cup (118 ml) white beans 110 mg
1 ounce (28 grams) almonds 80 mg
½ cup (118 ml) bok choy 80 mg
4 ounces (113 grams) cottage cheese 70 mg
½ cup (118 ml) red beans 40 mg
½ cup (118 ml) broccoli, cooked 35 mg

These are common dairy and non-dairy products in the United States but they might be different in your country or region. One gold tip that I can suggest is to have a goal-oriented search in the nearby grocery marts in your area. Instead of sweeping the stalls and buying the usual products in your list, go to the store a little earlier than usual and take your time looking for locally manufactured products that have high calcium content. It might take a lot of time at first, but think about the benefits that you will gain for your kids and for your local economy.

Another tip is to surprise the kids with home-made snacks packed with calcium-rich ingredients. For example, instead of buying store-made milk shakes that are laden with sugar, you can make them at home with the help of the kids. This could turn out to be a great way to spend productive time with them, too!

You can also substitute their usual breakfast cereals and bread with calcium-fortified brands available in your local market. The usual soup for dinner can also be fortified with calcium through adding delicious white and red beans. Try using more dark green leafy vegetables in your light or savory recipes. Broccoli, kale, collard greens, or Chinese cabbage can be your go-to vegetables for this.

From these examples, we can observe that there are a lot of ways to spike up the calcium intake of our kids aside from just making them drink more milk or prescribing them with calcium supplements. Furthermore, we have seen here how the issue of lactose intolerance and milk allergy can be solved with creativity, innovation, and persistent effort. The sudden change in routine or diet might surprise the kids, but it is a learning curve that we must overcome in order to help them grow strong and build firmer bones that will support them even in their later years.

As Jim Kwik says it, “Little by little, a little becomes a lot.” Parenting for most of us is a thankless job, but our little efforts will add up and the result of seeing our children grow healthily will undoubtedly give us joy.

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