You have heard all about how you need calcium for healthy teeth and bones. It is not just adults who require the nutrients. It is essential for children too.
While milk and other dairy products are some of the best sources, they are probably not the only ones. If your child is lactose intolerant, had a dairy allergy, or you choose against animal products, you can get calcium through leafy greens, dairy alternatives, and more.
However, why is calcium so essential? Why should you focus so much on getting it into your child’s diet? Surely you can skip it if you get all the other nutrients. Here is a look at seven reasons calcium is so important for growing children. It is not one to be missed!
Achieve Maximum Bone Growth
The most important reason to get calcium into the diet is for bone growth. While in adults, the nutrient helps to keep the bones strong and healthy, in childhood it is used to help with the bone development. Bones can be softer when your kids are younger, especially in the head. The skull must fuse together when your child is just a baby.
All the bones need to gain density to support the adult body. Children with weak bones are more likely to suffer breaks and other damage. However, that is not all. The children are also more likely to suffer from skeletal health problems later in life.
By the age of 17, around 90% of the bone mass has already been achieved. Your child will not develop extra in their adult years if they suddenly up their calcium intake. They want to make sure their calcium intake is optimal in their younger years to help maximize the bone growth and support the overall health now and in the future.
Of course, it is not just the right amount of calcium that is needed. Vitamin D will help the body absorb more calcium. This will help to improve the ability for the bones to use the calcium and gain their required density.
Think of calcium for bones as lime is for concrete. With lime, concrete is made stronger and more durable. That is just what the calcium will do for your children’s bones.
Support the Development of Healthy Teeth
It is not just bones that will gain benefits from calcium. The teeth also require the mineral to becomes stronger and denser than they would do without it. Strong teeth will help to improve their longevity. They are not as likely to be affected by plaque and bacteria in the mouth. Of course, good oral hygiene is still important.
The teeth come under strain every day. They were designed just for food, but we use our teeth for so much more now. People tear open packages, bite their nails, and open bottle caps. As much as we know not to use our teeth for that, sometimes we just cannot help it. You want your children’s teeth to be ready for anything they throw their teeth’s way.
Calcium will help to improve the strength of the enamel and the pulp within. The teeth are less likely to be chipped or damage due to trauma or incorrect use. You can help to reduce the risk of tooth decay and other problems by adding more calcium to your the diet.
Help with Blood Vessel Relaxation and Constriction
The blood vessels need to be able to relax and constrict on a regular basis to help spread the blood around the body. When the vessels work optimally, the blood will be able to reach all the organs. Enough oxygen gets around the body, keeping every element in good working order.
While many people look at iron and magnesium for this, calcium also plays a role. Getting enough calcium in a child’s diet is essential to help support the health of the blood vessels.
Over time, the arteries and vessels can become affected by toxins and poor diet. The arteries harden, meaning that blood clots are more likely to occur. People with hardened arteries are more likely to suffer from heart disease and stroke. These are life-threatening conditions that you can help prevent with the right diet.
While children are not likely to suffer from health problems like heart disease and stroke, they can still happen. Besides, getting the right levels of calcium now will help to support the development of the blood vessels. The mineral will help the vessels a strong base to grow from, supporting the health in the future.
The vessels will remain wide and flexible. The blood is not constricted, meaning other health problems are not a much of a risk as they are in those children who did not get enough calcium.
In fact, the heart health is also directly benefitted from the right amounts of calcium. The heart needs to be worked and strengthened just like any muscle. This means it needs the right amount of blood pumping in and out of it. Improving the health of the vessels will help to improve the health of the heart.
However, it is important to get a healthy level of calcium. It is possible to get too much, and this can have the opposite effect on the blood vessels. Getting too much calcium without enough vitamin D will lead to calcification. The calcium collects within the arteries and causes blockages. This can restrict blood flow and cause heart problems.
Improve Muscle Contraction
Calcium is not just good for the bones. It is essential for the development of the muscles, too. Well, more specifically, the calcium will help to improve the contraction of muscles, reducing the risk of muscle cramps.
Why is this so important in children? The muscles are still developing, but children are (or should be) highly active. Many lactic acids can build up in the body, causing muscles to cramp and restrict. Calcium will help with the contraction and relaxation of the muscles, reducing pain after exercise. Continuing calcium into adulthood will offer the same benefits.
A child’s development can also lead to some pain. Children can get pains in their back and leg from growing. The tendons, ligaments, muscles and other tissues stretch. This can make the twitching and cramping of muscles more painful. By adding more calcium to the diet, a child can reduce the amount of pain they feel compared to their peers. They get to enjoy more of their time playing outside.
Keeping the Hormonal Balance in Order
Calcium can also have a direct effect on the hormonal balance within your child’s body. Not getting enough calcium in the blood is known as hypocalcemia and is linked to an imbalance of the parathyroid hormone.
The parathyroid glands produce the hormone in the neck. If you do not get enough calcium, the gland is not able to produce enough of this hormone, which will directly affect some normal health processes. The hormone affects how the bones release calcium, how much the kidneys excrete, how the digestive tract absorbs the mineral, and how vitamin D is activated to manage the calcium.
The whole process is a cycle. The thyroid needs the calcium but also controls the levels of calcium. When the hormones are out of sync, the body cannot develop in the best way. Every single aspect of calcium absorption and effects is prevented or hindered in a way that can put your child’s health at first.
On top of that, the calcium will affect other hormones in the body. If the balance is out of sync, then there are other health issues to look at. Mental health problems are more likely to arise if hormones are out of balance. Pain is more common, which can mean your child suffers mentally as they feel like they cannot do everything their peers do.
Studies have recently shown that calcium can lead to depression, kidney stones, and other problems. These are all linked to the hormones. There are also less serious side effects of hormonal disruption, but sometimes considered the end of the world to teenagers. Hormonal acne is a major issue during puberty and can be made worse with a lack of calcium. A hormonal imbalance can lead to more natural oil production, blocking the pores further and making acne worse.
Strong Development of the Nervous System
Every part of your body is affected by the calcium levels your children get. During the younger years, the nervous system is still developing. Many people think of folic acid when it comes to the nervous system, but the calcium levels also have a direct effect.
The nervous system controls all elements within the body. This is the way the messages spread around the body. It is the way the brain makes the legs and arms move in the way they should. The nervous system can pass on messages of pain around the body.
More specifically, calcium affects the cell signaling within the body. If this cannot work efficiently, all organs and parts of the body are negatively effective. Chronic pain is more common, mental health problems are a risk, and there’s the possibility of suffering more muscle spasms and contractions.
Recovery from injuries can also be affected. When cells are damaged, calcium is needed for the repair process. Your children are likely to get injured. They like to jump from walls and climb trees. Accidents happen, but that does not mean you do not worry. You want to make sure their bodies repair effectively and quickly. Getting enough calcium will not only help with this but will also help avoid more serious trauma and injury at the same time.
Help with Full Brain Development
Finally, the calcium is linked to the brain development. This is most frequently considered to be the reason for healthy fats. While they are certainly important, calcium cannot be overlooked. The mineral is especially importing during the earlier stages of life when the brain cells are still developing at a rapid rate.
Calcium regulates the development of the brain and all its connections. It can affect the functional and structural basis of the brain cells. If your child does not get enough of the mineral, the brain may not be as fully developed as it needs to be in the future. It may not completely work properly, leading to possible disabilities, mental health problems, and physical ailments. Some studies link lack of calcium to autism and mental retardation issues.
This can also be linked to the nervous system development. If the nerves and cells do not develop properly, they can send the wrong messages to the brain. The lack of cell development within the brain can also lead to poor signally and control throughout the rest of the body.
Getting the Right Amount of Calcium in Your Diet
There are many ways to get calcium into your diet. Many people instantly think of dairy products, but they are certainly not the only way. Sure, milk, cheeses, and yogurts (along with other dairy products) can be excellent sources but you can also turn to vegan and vegetarian sources.
Look out for more dark green leafy vegetables. Kale is one of the best, but spinach and collards are also good sources. The leafy greens will also give you a range of other nutrients and you can add them to your diet so easily. Add them as a base to smoothies for instant addition to your diet.
Another option is to turn to dairy alternatives. Almond, soy, and coconut milk all have calcium included. Some of them have added calcium to make sure you get enough. If you are in a country where calcium and vitamin D deficiencies are familiar, you may find orange juices and bread are also fortified with the two minerals.
Babies will get the calcium they need from your breast milk, but you will need to make sure you get enough for both of you through your diet. Formulas will also have calcium added to make sure your baby is healthy. Doctors do recommend cow’s milk as the best source of calcium when weaning, but as your children get older, you can look for alternatives.