Like many things growing girls do -- playing sports, finishing chores or finding time for homework -- healthful eating is a balancing act. It takes skillful maneuvering to get it right. Just as these girls plot their game strategy and budget their time, they need to choose among foods that make up a healthful diet and develop exercise habits that benefit them most -- not only for today, but for the future, too.

Adequate calcium intake at this time in life is critical to achieving full height with strong bones and teeth. The diets of growing girls often lack nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, dark-green or deep-yellow vegetables and milk or milk products. What growing girls eat affects their health now -- and in the future. For that reason, you not only need to show them the links between diet and health, but also to help them develop skills for making informed food decisions.

Physical activity is another essential component of a lifestyle that supports the growth of healthy bones and teeth. It appears that physical activity helps to build greater bone mass in childhood and early adolescence and helps to maintain peak bone mass in adulthood. Activities ranging from walking the dog to jumping rope can stimulate bone growth. The goal is to get girls moving with activities they enjoy and can pursue regularly.

Where is Calcium Found in the Body?

Bones and teeth make up ninety-nine percent of the body's calcium content.

When is the Skeleton Formed?

Most of the body's bone mass starts to form before children enter puberty. During adolescence about 75-85% of the skeleton is formed. Therefore, young girls need to eat the right amount of the building blocks for bone; nutrients like calcium, protein, phosphorus and vitamin D.

How Much Calcium and Exercise Do Growing Girls Needed?

To develop strong bones that support full growth, girls need to eat 120% of the Daily Value for calcium every day (1,200 mg) and they need regular physical activity.

What Robs The Body of Calcium?

Some foods and behaviors can rob the body of calcium or increase its calcium need. Girls who smoke, drink alcohol, skip meals, drink too many cola-type beverage, eat too much salt or have certain eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia -- risk weakening their bones for life.

What Happens to Bone as Women Age?

It is important to strengthen your bones while you are young. Some women begin to lose bone even as early as age 35. Over time, this bone loss can lead to a condition called osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes bones to become brittle and break with very little stress. Developing strong bones when you are young can help to reduce the risk of broken bones when you are old.



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