Want to ensure a healthy future for your child? Make sure they get enough calcium now.
Calcium is essential to every cell in our body. Strong bones, healthy teeth, muscle function, blood clotting, transmission of signals between neurons, permeability of cell membranes – all are its responsibility. Calcium in the body is more than other minerals. In a newborn baby about 30 g of this element, in an adult – about one and a half kilograms! Bones and teeth store 98% of calcium, this ensures their density and serves as a kind of stash. When serum levels drop, the body knows where to find the mineral.
Children and adolescents especially need calcium – it is the basic building material during rapid growth. According to various sources, 10-30% of children are deficient in calcium or do not absorb it properly. So it is important to know where calcium hides and what it is eaten with.
Milk and alternatives
The main source of calcium is dairy products. A cup of milk, or a 50-ounce piece of hard cheese, contains about 300 mg. Breastfeeding is the best way for babies to live: there is plenty of calcium in breast milk, and it is absorbed very well. The bioavailability of animal milk is half that of cow’s milk, less than that of sheep’s and goat’s milk, and more than that of fat-free milk.
Plant milk also has calcium, but not as much and not in such an accessible form. Tofu cheese, on the other hand, has plenty of calcium, especially if it has been prepared with calcium sulfate. However, there is evidence from Oxford University that vegetarians have a higher risk of fractures because there isn’t enough calcium in their lives, after all.
Greens, fish and beans
So if your child doesn’t drink regular milk, look for other sources of calcium. For example, broccoli, kale, arugula, Chinese cabbage and spinach. There is calcium in legumes – beans, chickpeas, green peas, as well as nuts (almonds are the champion), unpeeled sesame seeds and oranges, figs, prunes and apricots. But many plant foods contain oxalic acid and phytins, which reduce the bioavailability of calcium. Spinach, for example, has only 5 per cent. Broccoli, on the other hand, is as absorbent as milk. Soaking beans before cooking solves part of the problem of phytins.
There is a lot of calcium in fish bones. We usually think of them as inedible. However, in canned fish, the bones are soft and can be mashed and added to, say, casseroles and mashed potatoes. 200g of canned pink salmon is 200mg of calcium.
Companions and foes
As you can see, calcium is in many foods, but how much it will be absorbed is still a big question. In general, menus should be as varied as possible – as much as possible with children who are willing to eat only fast food. And any fast food is an excess of salt and sugar, and they are enemies of calcium. So are phosphoric acid from sodas and caffeine from coffee and tea. But magnesium and phosphorus are friendly with calcium, so good combinations are cottage cheese with banana, wholemeal bread with cheese, oatmeal with milk and nuts, etc. And don’t forget that calcium is useless without vitamin D. Everyone chronically lacks it in our northern latitudes, which at a tender age can lead to rickets. That’s why pediatricians strongly recommend giving children extra vitamin D.
How much calcium children and adolescents need (according to the UK National Health Service):
0-1 years old – 200-260 mg,
1-3 years – 700 mg,
4-8 years – 1,000 mg,
9-18 – 1,300 mg.