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Kid Nutrition: Nutrients to Grow On

Make sure your children get these super-nutrients for growing kids.

By Elizabeth Ward
WebMD Feature

Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson

Children thrive on dozens of nutrients that work together to promote growth and development. While no single nutrient, or group of nutrients, is any more important to a child's well-being, these five come up a lot when the subject is kids' nutrition.

Calcium: A Must-Have Nutrient for Bone Health

Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, maximizes bone growth and shores up the skeleton during childhood and beyond. A small but significant amount of calcium in the bloodstream is necessary for normal heart beat, blood clotting, and muscle function. The body "withdraws" the calcium it needs from bones to maintain blood levels, which is partly why children need adequate calcium every day. Many kids don't get enough for their nutritional needs.

"American kids are suffering from a calcium crisis," says Keith-Thomas Ayoob, EdD, RD, associate professor in the department of pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. "And it does not bode well for their bone health, now or in the future."

Teenage girls in particular are among those with the lowest calcium intake relative to their needs. Calcium deficiency is especially dicey during adolescence, when the body forms about half the bone mass it will ever have. Consistently coming up short for calcium during these years is one of the risk factors for bone-thinning osteoporosis decades later. It's even worse for females because of their greater risk for the condition.