Did you know that our skeleton is made up of 206 bones?
Our bones are living tissue that give us structure and support, allow movement and protect our vital organs from injury.
Calcium is the mineral needed to build strong bones and teeth. If inadequate intake of calcium continues over a long period, it may lead to osteoporosis, a disease in which bones become brittle and weak and break easily.
Milk and milk products like cheese and yogurt are the main sources of calcium in the diet; low-fat and fat-free options are best because they supply calcium without adding extra fat and calories. They also have added vitamin D, which is essential to help the body better absorb calcium. Children between the ages of 9-15 need more calcium than younger children because bones grow fastest during this period. Children 4-8 years need 800 milligrams of calcium a day; 9- to 18-year-olds and adults need 1,300 milligrams a day.
Youth 9-18 years old can get most of their daily calcium from three cups of low-fat or fat-free milk, but they also need additional servings of calcium to get the 1,300 milligrams necessary for strong bones. Children 4-8 years old need 2 1/2 cups per day and children 2-3 years old, two cups. For those who get an upset stomach when they drink milk, calcium-fortified orange juice, soy beverages, breakfast cereals, tofu, dark green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, and almonds are alternative sources of dietary calcium.
Weight-bearing exercise, at least 60 minutes a day for children and teenagers, also helps to build and strengthen your bones. These are activities that keep you active and on your feet so that your legs carry your body weight, for example, walking, running, dancing, basketball, soccer and volleyball. Check with your health care provider before starting any weight training.
So, get your calcium, vitamin D and exercise every day; the benefits last a lifetime.
1. US Department of Health and Human Services, 2005. Milk Matters. NICHD
2. US Department of Health and Human Services. The 2004 Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis: what it means to you.
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