I recently broke my toe.

My first broken bone at the age of 40!!

Such a minor injury can be quite frustrating.  I have to walk quite slowly, and if I rush, it hurts!

So my diet has to focus on bone building nutrients to ensure the bone heals as quickly as possible, and doesn’t cause me any lasting issues.

Who is at risk of fractures?

Some children are more likely to get fractures than others, such as those

  • Who have taken reflux medication
  • Who take warfarin (which many kids with congenital heart disease have to take for life)
  • Who have nutritional deficiencies (fussy eating)
  • Who have bone abnormality conditions
  • With Cystic fibrosis
  • With Downs syndrome

And, in my experience, the biggest risk factor: TRAMPOLINES!!!

So if your child is in any of these categories, it would be wise to follow these guidelines proactively!

What foods are good for strong bones in children?

As usual, the best diet for bone health is one that focusses on wholefoods, and avoids processed foods.

Due to massive marketing by the dairy councils in most Western countries, everyone knows that calcium is important for bone health, but this is only part of the picture.

What you might not know is:

  • Calcium needs to be eaten alongside other nutrients for optimum bone health.
  • These other nutrients include magnesium, vitamin K, boron, silica, vitamin C, Vitamin D and zinc. Eating a wide variety of real food, will provide these nutrients.
  • Dairy does not contain all these other nutrients
  • Calcium on its own can reduce absorption of magnesium.

If you are eating dairy, one serve a day is optimum for bone health.  Get the rest of your calcium from other sources.  And eat your dairy fermented, for example kefir or properly fermented yoghurt.

Dairy does contain calcium, but it is by no means the only source.

High calcium foods:

  • Green leafy vegetables – If your child is on warfarin, you need to eat a consistent amount of green leafy vegetables every day. Ideas for getting green leafy veg into your child: green smoothies, frittata, bolognaise with hidden veggies and kale chips
  • Tinned salmon with bones in it
  • Fermented soy. Fermented soy: tofu or tempeh in a stir fry or soup
  • Almonds
  • Chia seeds

High magnesium foods

  • Almonds, brewer’s yeast, cashews, cocoa, eggs, figs, kelp, leafy greens

Vitamin K foods

  • Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and kale

Boron foods

  • Found in apples, almonds, dates, hazelnuts, legumes, pears and prunes

Silica foods

  • Green beans, mussels, oats, raisins and root vegetables

Vitamin C foods

  • This is needed to build collagen, necessary for repair. It is found in abundance in many fruits and vegetables, like strawberries, capsicum and citrus fruit.

Vitamin D foods

  • Cod liver oil, egg yolk, butter, sprouted seeds

Zinc foods

  • This is needed to help rebuild the bone. Beef and pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc.  Oysters are especially high if you can convince your child to eat them!

Bone broth helps with strong bones

Cooking bones in water for a long time with some apple cider vinegar leaches minerals out of the bones.  These are then consumed in the bone broth, and contribute to build strong bones.

Gut health and bone health

Consuming a diet rich in prebiotic fibre (the food for the good bacteria) helps to increase the amount of calcium you can absorb from your diet.  Good sources of prebiotics include onions, leeks and garlic.

What foods are bad for bone health?

Avoid foods that encourage your body to get rid of calcium.

These foods include sugar, salt, too much animal protein and soft drinks. For adults, unfortunately it also means cutting out coffee, alcohol and tea.

Exercise and children’s bone health

Lots of exercise for kids will give them strong bones for the rest of their lives.

Swimming is not very useful for bone health as it isn’t weight bearing (however it is wonderful for other aspects of health and wellbeing).

Activities that will help build strong bones include anything weight bearing: dancing, jumping, tennis, soccer etc.

The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D is crucial for bone health, and it is so easy to get in Australia!  Safe sun exposure all year round will keep vitamin D levels topped up, and protect bones.

Smoking and bone health

Just in case you didn’t get the memo…..do not let your child be exposed to cigarette smoke under any circumstance.  Smoking is bad for your bones (and everything else).

If your child has broken a bone, you need to up the ante, and possibly take a supplement for the healing phase, as prescribed by a nutritionist.