Continuing with our Vitamin Series, my post today will focus on the importance of calcium (although technically, we’re having a “Nutrient Series,” since calcium is a mineral)! Calcium is best known for its role in bone health. In fact, the body stores more than 99% of calcium in bones and teeth to keep them strong. However, calcium also plays a critical role in many bodily functions including muscle contraction, hormone secretion and nerve transmission.
The body must maintain constant levels of calcium in the blood, muscles and cells in order for the body to function properly. Although the level required for this is small (less than 1% of total body calcium), if you aren’t getting enough calcium from your diet, the body will use calcium stored in bones to maintain these processes, resulting in bone loss.
Calcium intake throughout childhood and adolescence sets the stage for your little one’s lifetime bone health because the development of peak bone mass during these years will reduce the risk of fractures and Osteoporosis later in adulthood.
The recommended intake of calcium for infants and children are:
- Birth-6 months: 210 mg per day
- 7-12 months: 270 mg per day
- 1-3 years: 500 mg per day
- 4-8 years: 800 mg per day
- 9-13 years: 1300 mg per day
The best sources of calcium are milk and milk products, soy products like tofu, leafy greens and of course, the extra calcium-rich sardines! For children with milk and soy allergies, its critical to supplement calcium with fortified foods or nutritional products (unless your kids are big sardine eaters! J). It’s also important to get enough Vitamin D because it plays a key role in the body’s absorption of calcium.
Another important factor for bone health is regular exercise and weight-bearing activities. So make sure that your children get adequate calcium and Vitamin D and encourage them to be active. They will thank you for a lifetime of bone health!
 Weaver CM, Heaney RP. Calcium. In: Shils ME, Shike M, Ross AC, Caballero B, Cousins RJ. Modern Nutrition in Health and Disease. 10th ed. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2006:194-210.
 PEDIATRICS Vol. 117 No. 2 February 2006, pp. 578-585 (doi:10.1542/peds.2005-2822).
 Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D, and Fluoride. Washington, DC: National Academy Press;1997.