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How to Build Strong Bones in Kids - All About Bones

January 2, 2023

Every parent’s biggest concern is their child’s health. They want to know what they can do to improve their child’s overall health including the bones. Bone development in childhood is very important to avoid injuries or deterioration of the joints at a later age. Bones continue to grow until our mid-20s but most of the development happens in childhood and teen years.

All About Bones

First, let’s just understand a little more about bones. We all know that we have 206 bones in our bodies. Did you know that you were born with 300 bones and many of these bones fuse as you grow? When the bones develop and fuse they need sufficient nutrition to ensure they are strong and fuse well.

Bones are made up of many layers of tissue namely – bone marrow, cancellous, compact bone and the periosteum. Ossification is the process of bone development that starts happening around the 8th week of pregnancy. This is why a pregnant mother is advised to increase her calcium intake via rich food sources and supplements to support the baby’s bone development.

Have you noticed how babies are more flexible and have softer limbs than little older children? This is because most of their bones are made up of cartilage, which is a tough connectivity tissue that is both tough and flexible. As they grow up, the cartilage will develop into bones and this is why it is very important to pay attention to their bone health.

Book an appointment to consult Dr. Shashibhushan M R for pediatric concerns.

What Stimulates Bone Growth in Children?

The bones in our bodies continue to grow until 20 years of age. A child undergoes a growth spurt between 10 and 20 years of age, mainly during their teen years. During the rapid development phase, children require a lot of calcium to help their bones grow well and strong. This is why what your child eats at this stage is very important for their strength and height. The better the bone development, the taller they can get.

Please remember genetics play a role too. You cannot just pump your child with calcium and expect them to grow tall. Too much calcium in the body can also cause issues as they grow up.

What Causes Weak Bones in Kids?

One of the most common causes of weak bones or bone-related issues in children is the lack of sufficient nutrition to support their bone development in childhood. Some of the other possible yet rare reasons could be:

  • Rickets – long-term vitamin D deficiency
  • Parathyroid gland disorder – when the parathyroid gland produces too much or too low parathyroid hormone.
  • Osteogenesis imperfecta – a genetic disorder
  • Juvenile osteoporosis – bones become weak and brittle due to an underlying health condition

Food for Strong Bones and Muscles

During childhood, it is not advisable to depend on supplements for nutrition. A child has to eat well and eat right to derive all the nutrients from various food sources. It is important to train the body to derive the required nutrients from various food sources rather than get them via supplements and medications – which is the easier format.

You need more than just calcium for bone development in childhood and retaining bone strength as you get older. If you are not too sure about which foods can help develop strong bones and muscles in your child you can include the following food items in your child’s diet.

1. Calcium

Calcium is extremely important for developing bones in childhood. 80% of your child’s calcium requirement during this stage comes from dairy products. So ensure you add a lot of dairy products to your child’s regular diet. This can include milk, curd, paneer and cheese.

In addition to dairy products the following foods are rich in calcium:

  • Sesame seeds
  • Sesame seeds
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Dried figs
  • Tofu

2. Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an important vitamin for bone strength. It helps the body absorb the required calcium from various sources and adds it to the bones in the body. The easiest and most prominent source of vitamin D is the Sun. However, as children spend more time indoors, the exposure to sunlight and thus the absorption of Vitamin D in children is decreasing.

In most cases, doctors will prescribe vitamin D drops for newborn babies, until they are 1 year old. Since they cannot play outdoors at this age and the morning or evening walks are not sufficient enough to absorb vitamin D, supplementation is important. If your baby is on formula milk, your doctor may not prescribe vitamin D as formulas are fortified with vitamin D.

Some of the food sources for vitamin D as your child grows up are :

  1. Eggs
  2. Few variants of fish
  3. Vitamin D-fortified cereals and foods

3. Protein

Protein helps gain bone mass. A baby between the ages of 1 and 3 requires a good 13g of protein every day. Teenage children require 52g of protein every day to support their

developing bodies. If your child is into sports and physically demanding activities then they need more protein to support their body’s needs.

Today you have protein powders and supplements even for children. However, you cannot give that to your child unless a doctor approves. If children have a well-balanced nutritious diet then it can provide the body’s requirements.

Animal-based proteins are rich in protein and amino acids. If your family follows a vegetarian diet, you can give your child a lot of vegetables and legumes to meet their protein needs. Some of the foods rich in protein worth adding to the regular diet are:

  • Eggs (both white and yellow)
  • Chicken
  • Lentils (lentils can lack some amino acids, combining them with rice can make it a wholesome meal
  • Tofu
  • Nuts & seeds
  • Fish

Strong Bones Need More Than Food

For a growing child, bone development requires more than just nutritious food. Protein, calcium and vitamin-rich foods can help in developing dense and firm bones but to strengthen them your child has to exercise them.

When you include exercises and physical activities which can be sports or play, it will help condition the bones as they develop. The demands for nutrition will be higher from a young age and aid in the overall development of the bones.

Allowing your child to choose a sedentary lifestyle, be it in front of screens and gadgets or sitting indoors and studying or even doing indoor activities, will not help in the development of strong bones.

As a parent, you need to ensure your child follows a well-balanced nutritious diet and an active lifestyle for healthy bone development.

Must Read : Starting solid food for your baby is a great milestone: Learn about the 7 food that are great  starters for your children

Want to consult the Best Pediatricians in India? Please find the links below.

  1. ‍Best Pediatricians in Bangalore
  2. Top Pediatricians in Chennai
  3. Best Pediatric Doctor in Mumbai
  4. Top Children’s Specialist near me in Pune
  5. Best Child Specialist doctor in Chandigarh
  6. Top Pediatrician near me in Gurgaon
  7. Best Pediatrician doctors in Noida
  8. Top Pediatrician doctors in New Delhi
  9. Best Pediatrician doctors in Faridabad
  10. Top Pediatrician doctors in Panchkula
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