Food for the Bones
Worries about osteoporosis and poor bone health may feel like a lifetime away when it comes to your infant, but the best time to avoid this pernicious disease is during childhood and adolescence. Dense bones are solid bones, and once adulthood is attained, increasing bone density becomes more difficult.
By the age of 18-20, 90% of the bone mass we will have has already been accumulated for the rest of our lives, so it is vital to do what we can to improve the strength and density of the bone while it is being developed, making childhood the perfect time to begin.
The key cornerstones of most health conditions are a healthy diet and physical activity, but for bone health, the implementation of these in childhood requires a little more complexity than you would expect.
Calcium-rich foods come to mind when many of us think of and for a good reason, "bone foods." In the bones and teeth, about 99 percent of the body's calcium is processed, and it plays a major role in bone density. Children with low-calcium diets have been found to have bones that are less dense than those that eat sufficient quantities, unsurprisingly.
While high calcium foods are essential to supporting bone health, the sources we once turned to uncritically need to be considered. We've grown up with the idea that the go-to category for high calcium foods is dairy products, but this idea is falling more and more out of favor. Recent studies have, in fact, shown that daily milk consumption may increase the risk of certain cancers.
While the dietary guidelines of the USDA include dairy as necessary for healthy eating, in their revised edition, Canada's food guide has expressly omitted dairy as a required food category. If dairy is questioned as a necessary food category, it raises the question: where are we getting our calcium?
In several non-dairy sources, calcium is plentiful. One literature review looked at several studies comparing the density of bone minerals in those who consumed soy protein to those who consumed animal protein and found little difference between the two groups of bone mineral density.
Similarly, another study looked at children who ingested 1,500 mg of milk daily versus children who consumed 1,000 mg of other sources of calcium and found that milk intervention had no effect on the acquisition of bone minerals or the composition of the body.
In particular, as plant-based milk is often fortified with calcium during processing, plant-based kind of milk can seem like the next best thing to substitute dairy. While it is probable that the supply of these milk to children may achieve sufficient calcium levels, they come with their own set of concerns. It's important to do your homework with plant-based milk to know exactly what you're getting.
Non-dairy milk is a popular option, but it's fraught with other issues. Almonds need almost a gallon of water per almond to be produced, are usually grown in drought-prone areas, and are typically dependent on large quantities of pesticides for cultivation.
Carrageenan, an additive widely used as a thickening and emulsifying agent that has strongly contradictory reports regarding its protection, is also included in much commercial almond milk.
With certain countries not recommending intake for those under 4.5 years of age, it can be a source of arsenic.
In both children and adults, it may affect hormones and has been related to developmental changes in children.
It is a fairly new player in the field of milk replacement that has fewer issues than other alternatives and can be generated at home. Notice that if consumed as a source of milk, opt for a fortified trademark.
It might be best to rotate the choices if you and your family have decided not to eat dairy milk and feel it important to consume an alternative as a calcium source.
Fortunately, in addition to the dairy (or dairy alternatives) section, there is a wide range of delicious, family-friendly, calcium-rich foods in other sections of the grocery store. The benefit of using whole foods to provide calcium is that they provide a number of other vitamins and minerals, many of which are also essential for building strong bones.
With so many foods that contain calcium and micronutrients, and with so many ways to prepare them, it should not be a struggle to find calcium-rich foods that fit into your child's diet!
Finding ways to incorporate some of these heavy hitters regularly in the diet of your family will ensure that without undue dependence on dairy, sufficient calcium levels are achieved.
It is a convenient and versatile way to add a high dose of calcium to the diet, whether served fresh, baked, or blended into sauces, smoothies, or soups. Some greens contain high quantities of oxalates, including collard, kale, and particularly spinach, a natural compound that can interfere with the ability of the body to absorb minerals, including calcium,
But they are still worth eating for the nutrient and fiber content and also for the lower calcium content that will pass through. It will ensure that your kid gets the most calcium bang for the buck by adding a number of different greens!
Usually, they are kid-friendly (around age four) and a simple way to promote calcium intake once kids are past the choking risk. In their tiny packets, almonds pack the most calcium, while hazelnuts are a noteworthy second. Grind into butter or apply to smoothies, dips, and sauces, or spread on fruits and vegetables!
They're not all yummy; they are chock full of calcium, mixed into butter or tahini. So sprinkle or drizzle away and apply sauces, dressings, and even sweet treats to them!
They are calcium-rich powerhouses filled with protein that can be added to every meal. Or dab on a dollop of hummus, a double whammy of tahini and chickpeas!
There are several types of calcium, and the amount of calcium will vary as some producers add extra calcium to their product (called calcium-set tofu).
Firm tofu is ideal for grilling, baking, or frying, making a perfect substitute for beef, and iteasily stands up to a variety of techniques for cooking. Silken tofu is very delicate, makes an excellent substitute for eggs, and can be mixed into smoothies, spreads, dips, and sauces.
They contain a decent amount of calcium, like broccoli, but preparation is all! Raw, roasted, and steamed are all great choices, although boiling is less suitable, as a large portion of the mineral content of a vegetable can be extracted by the process.
It can also help to make a small contribution to your child's regular intake of calcium. The amount of calcium in fresh oranges, dried figs, and raisins are higher than in other fruits. Keep an eye on the size of the portion, as dried fruit also contains large quantities of sugar.
Calcium alone can't do that! To promote good and stable bone maintenance, it requires a bit of help from key micronutrients.
It plays a crucial role in the health of the bones, both by increasing calcium absorption in the digestive tract and by ensuring that it is guided to the bones rather than accumulating elsewhere. Since exposure to sunlight is difficult to negotiate, depending on where you live and the issues of over-or underexposure, supplementation is the most effective source of vitamin D.
It acts to keep bones solid alongside vitamin D, and those with higher vitamin K blood levels have been shown to have denser bones than those with lower levels. In leafy greens, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables, vitamin K is conveniently present.
It is essential to convert supplemented vitamin D into a body-usable type that indirectly affects the absorption of calcium. It also helps suppress the release of PTH (a hormone that removes calcium from the bones) while increasing calcitonin release (a hormone that enables bones to absorb calcium). In leafy greens, cruciferous plants, a lot of nuts and seeds, and legumes, magnesium is included.
It activates osteoblasts and prevents osteoclasts (the cells that create bone) (cells that break down bone). All the great sources of zinc are legumes, animal products, and nuts.
It is a key player in the preservation of healthy bones, but when its levels are too high, it may also hinder the ability to store calcium efficiently in the bone. Since phosphorus is present in many foods that we consume, such as meat and milk, and is a widely used additive in processed foods, elevated levels of phosphorus are generally the product of an excess diet.
Both muscle and bone strength are important. The stronger our muscles are, the more bone resistance they apply, which makes our bones stronger in turn. The consumption of protein is also a very good way to keep children happy, helping to maintain sufficient body mass and reduce the risk of obesity, another risk factor for osteoporosis. Superstar sources of protein include legumes, nuts, leafy greens, poultry, fish, and meat.
Encouraging exercise is one of the best steps we can take. Exercise not only improves overall physical and mental health, but it has been related later in life to stronger, denser bones during childhood. But when it comes to increasing bone density, not all types of exercise are equal.
Bone formation is activated when it is impaired, making high-impact movements such as running, jumping, boxing and cross-training even more successful than low-impact practices, such as swimming, riding, or yoga, in creating strong bones. In kids who regularly leap off two-foot boxes over the span of a few months, one study found a rise in upper and lower backbone density.
Jumping sports and events, such as basketball and dance, are great choices, as are less rule-based activities, such as setting up obstacle courses at home to facilitate movement. In addition, encouraging unstructured outdoor play where children have an opportunity to explore their environment without supervision not only has tremendous advantages for building trust and independence but can also promote bone-building exercise, particularly if climbing and jumping opportunities are available.
Starting this form of exercise early produces lasting impacts: highly active 5-year-olds demonstrated improved bone density up to six years in the future over their less-active peers, even though physical activity was not maintained over this period.
Owing to its detrimental effects on the brain, immune, and endocrine systems, chronic psychological stress is also a risk factor for osteoporosis. The activation of maladaptive pathways suppresses and alters hormone expression and increases inflammation, which through inhibiting bone tissue formation and absorption, can contribute to bone loss.
The risk factor for mental health problems associated with osteoporosis is often psychological stress. One study found that those suffering from depression or anxiety, possibly due to inflammation associated with mental health problems, had lower bone mineral density.
The good news is that physical, weight-bearing exercise both strengthens bones and decreases stress, and an outstanding double whammy can also significantly support children from other stress control techniques, including mindfulness activities, artistic outlets, and spending time outdoors.