Find out how your students can help build and maintain strong bones.
Bone Health Matters
Bone development increases rapidly at the start of puberty and peaks when teens reach their full height, around the age of 18 for girls and 20 for boys. Help students understand that childhood and adolescence are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build strong bones. Encourage students to take these four actions:
1. Choose calcium-rich foods
Milk, yogurt and cheese naturally contain calcium that is easily absorbed by the body. Milk also contains vitamin D and lactose, two components that help with calcium absorption. Calcium can also be found in canned salmon with the bones and certain plant foods such as leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts and calcium-fortified foods.
Talk to students about the importance of having calcium-rich foods each day. Refer to our Calcium Flash Cards to learn about the amount of calcium in different foods.
2. Get enough vitamin D
Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption, but how do we make sure we get enough?
One way is through sun exposure. Vitamin D is commonly called the “sunshine” vitamin because it is produced when skin is exposed to the sun’s ultraviolet rays. The amount that can be made by our skin through sun exposure depends on age, geographic latitude, skin pigmentation and use of sun protection. However, it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from the sun year-round in Canada.
Another way is through food. Vitamin D is naturally present in a limited number of foods, including eggs, fatty fish (i.e., trout, salmon, mackerel and sardines) and fish liver oil. Vitamin D is also found in milk due to mandatory fortification in Canada, making milk an excellent source of Vitamin D.
Discuss these sources with your students to see if they are having any of these foods containing Vitamin D.
3. Aim for protein at every meal
In addition to calcium and vitamin D, protein is an important nutrient for bone growth and maintenance. Protein is found in foods like milk, yogurt, cheese, nuts, seeds, beans, eggs, fish and lean meats. Canada’s Food Guide recommends that you have protein foods at every meal, filling ¼ of your plate.
4. Be Active
Children and youth should aim for 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each day. This should include activities that increase the heart rate and activities that strengthen muscle and bone. Here are some ideas to get moving and have fun:
- Play an active game, such as tag.
- Challenge yourself to walk or run in the park.
- Bike, rollerblade or skateboard to a friend’s house.
- Dance or skip to a favourite song.
- Try basketball, hockey, soccer, tennis or volleyball.
- Enjoy activities like skiing, sledding, skating or snowshoeing.