Parents want children to grow up strong and healthy. And most know that having strong bones is an important part of being healthy. Building bone mass during childhood and teen years also sets the stage for bone health as we get older. One key to boosting bones at any age is eating calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese, and yogurt. Dairy foods provide calcium, protein, and vitamin D; all key players in bone health. “Meeting recommendations for dairy’s nutrients is essential for healthy bones throughout all stages of life,” says Joyce Fikri, nutrition educator for St. Louis District Dairy Council.

 

Calcium is a mineral that makes up most of bone tissue, and vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from foods we eat. “Milk is one of the few food sources of vitamin D.  Some cheeses and yogurts are also fortified with Vitamin D,” notes Fikri. From childhood through early adulthood, calcium and vitamin D are used for bone growth. Beyond the mid-twenties, bones are no longer growing but are the body’s main storage site for calcium. Calcium is constantly being removed from this storage site for other uses in the body. As a result, the storage site must be replenished with calcium. 

 

It’s important for people of all ages to meet the calcium and vitamin D recommendations. One of the easiest (and tastiest!) ways to do this is to include three servings of dairy every day. Milk, yogurt, and cheese are excellent sources of calcium, providing one-third of the recommended daily intake of calcium per serving. “The role of dairy foods is more crucial than ever as most Americans today are not getting enough calcium in their daily diets, putting them at increased risk for bone-crippling disease,” says Fikri.

 

Getting more calcium in your diet can be as simple as drinking a glass of milk with meals, adding cheese to salads, pasta and casseroles, or preparing soups and hot cereal with milk instead of water. Blend fruit, yogurt, and milk together for a tasty smoothie or enjoy coffee or hot chocolate made with steamed milk.

 

Along with diet, exercise is important for maintaining healthy bones throughout life. Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, jogging, hiking, tennis or even dancing, produces stress on bones, which helps to stimulate their growth and maintenance. For maximum bone benefit, include a variety of weight-bearing activities in your daily physical activity plan.

 

For additional information on dairy foods visit, www.stldairycouncil.org, call St. Louis District Dairy Council at 217-726-8480, or e-mail jfikri@stldairycouncil.org.  To download information to help remind kids and teens of the importance of dairy foods for building strong bones visit,

http://www.stldairycouncil.org/Community-Programs/Build-My-Bones/