Everyone knows that eating healthful foods is important for growing children, but do some nutritious foods, like milk, help you grow?
Yes. Here’s how: Milk contains nine essential nutrients, all of which contribute to healthy bodies. And milk is the No. 1 food source of most of these, including calcium and vitamin D, in the diets of children.
Calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus, and protein are necessary for growing strong bones and bodies. Protein is a key nutrient for building muscle at any age. But helping to build healthy bones and muscle isn’t the only way drinking milk can help you grow. The other vitamins in milk help children grow in other ways:
- Vitamin A: Helps maintain vision, healthy skin and a healthy immune system
- Vitamin B12: Helps build red blood cells and helps maintain the central nervous system
- Riboflavin: Helps convert food into energy
- Niacin (equivalents): Helps with the normal function of many enzymes in the body
- Potassium: Helps maintain healthy blood pressure
While good nutrition throughout childhood and adolescence is important for proper growth and development, the body needs more of some nutrients, such as calcium, during growth spurts in older children and teens. Even after the teen growth spurt ends, bones continue to gain strength and density: 90 percent of peak bone mass is reached by age 18 in women and 20 in men. So to build strong bones, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends two to three servings of dairy foods (milk, cheese and yogurt) for kids four to eight years old, and four servings for adolescents to help meet calcium and vitamin D needs.
Making milk a regular part of a healthy eating pattern not only supports healthy growth, drinking milk as a child can also help build healthy habits for lifelong health.