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How Can I Make Sure My Kids are Getting Enough Calcium Without Milk?

Q:  “My kids aren’t fans of milk and I don’t push it.  Are they missing out on calcium or other nutrients to build strong bones and teeth?  We do drink some almond milk and occasionally coconut milk, but in the back of my mind, I wonder if we should be supplementing with something additional.” A:  “This may surprise you, but your kids can get all the calcium and other nutrients they need for strong bones and teeth without ever drinking a drop of cow’s milk.  Humans like all other mammals were not designed to ingest breast milk after the first few years of life.  After weaning, most of the enzymes needed to adequately digest the milk sugars (lactose) and milk proteins (casein and whey) decline in the human body since these substances are not in the other foods we traditionally hunt and gather.  This is why so many people have digestive issues, true allergies and sensitivities to milk and other dairy products. Kids can get the 800-1300mg of calcium recommended daily by eating a variety of other whole, unprocessed foods including spinach, kale, okra, collards, Chinese cabbage, soy beans (edamame), tofu, broccoli, beans, salmon, and sardines.  Calcium is also found in fortified foods like breakfast cereals, orange juice, and most nut, rice, soy and coconut milks. More importantly, kids need to get enough vitamin D, magnesium, manganese and vitamin K to help the body absorb calcium into its more than 200 bones and teeth.  Without adequate calcium absorption, studies have shown that their bodies can be plagued later in life with osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension, cancer and kidney stones. Here are a few whole food sources of calcium absorption-aiding nutrients. Magnesium – spinach, swiss chard, cocoa powder, pumpkin, squash, sesame seeds, tahini, molasses, dry roasted soy beans (edamame), almonds, cashews, whole grain oats, wheat, Manganese – spinach, wheat germ, rice bran, oat bran, hazelnuts, pine nuts, pecans, roasted pumpkin and squash seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, tahini, sunflower seeds, dry roasted edamame, chili powder, cocoa power, chili powder Vitamin K – dried herbs including basil, sage and thyme; deeply colored leafy greens like kale, collards, cress, spinach, turnip Greens, mustard greens, beet greens, swiss chard; broccoli, spring onions (scallions), brussels sprouts, asparagus, pickled cucumber and prunes Vitamin D –. Vitamin D is in very few whole foods in very small amounts-fatty fish (like tuna, mackerel, and salmon), beef liver, and egg yolks. Your body also makes vitamin D with exposure to sunlight, but that process is hindered with sunscreen and because kids are spending more time in doors.   Therefore some foods have been fortified with vitamin D like dairy products, orange juice, soy milk, and cereals.  Doctors are...

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