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Importance of Milk
Milk and milk products are the most important source of calcium in children’s diet. Children need calcium in their diet for formation and strengthening of bone structure and teeth.
Milk provides calcium which is critical for lifelong bone health.
Having a calcium-rich diet during childhood and teenage makes a big difference in health, now and later.
By getting the calcium now, children will:
- Strengthen Bone Mass
Some researcher’s suspect that the rise in fractures in children is due to decrease in bone mass, which may result because children are drinking less milk and more carbonated beverages, and are getting less physical activity.
- Help prevent osteoporosis during adulthood
Osteoporosis is a condition that makes bones weak so they break more easily. Bones rely on calcium they store to stay strong throughout life. Children need to make their bone mass before the age of 17 so that they have enough stores as adults. Following the teen years, bones continue to increase in density until a person is about age 30.
Why is Milk a better source of calcium?
Although calcium is found in a variety of foods like dark green leafy vegetables, tofu, the 1994 National Institutes of Health (NIH) Consensus Development Conference Statement on Optimal Calcium Intake designated dairy products as the preferred source of calcium because of their high calcium content.
Experts recommends milk and milk products as sources of dietary calcium based on studies that show a positive relationship between intake of milk and milk products and bone mineral content or bone mineral density at one or more skeletal sites.
The NICHD has selected low-fat or fat-free milk as an excellent source of calcium because it has high calcium content without added fat, and because the calcium is easily absorbed by the body. Low-fat and fat-free milk products are also good sources of calcium.
Tofu, cereals, dark green leafy vegetables are also healthy dietary sources of calcium. But, it takes a large amount of servings to get the same amount of calcium in 2 or 3, 250 ml glasses of milk.
Moreover, other sources of calcium especially dark green leafy vegetables are high in calcium inhibitors like oxalic acid and phytates. These prevent complete absorption of calcium in the body.
In addition to calcium, milk provides other essential nutrients that are important for optimal bone health and development, including:
Which is the best milk for children?
Children can have full cream milk from age 2 years and beyond. As they reach teenage they may have reduced fat milk to cut down on fat intake. Two glasses of milk and a cup of curd or one glass of milk and two cups of curds are sufficient to provide 400 mg/day of Calcium to children (this is the recommended allowance for Indian Children). Children older than 11 years require more calcium (600mg/day) and hence can increase consumption of milk and or milk products.
Cheese/Paneer are very dense sources of calcium and should be included in the children’s diet along with milk.
What if my child is Lactose Intolerant?
Some children cannot digest milk. You may have to discuss the degree of intolerance and workout a proper diet plan with a Nutritionist on how to incorporate Calcium in the child’s diet through other sources.
Some young infants tend to be coicky and cannot tolerate mother′s milk as well. Please discuss with your doctor if you feel that your baby seems to be allergic to milk proteins.