Educational Tools

Why is calcium important to young bones?

Calcium is a mineral that is essential for building strong bones. Unfortunately, most tweens (ages 9 to 12) and teens do not get enough calcium. In fact, fewer than one in 10 girls and only one in four boys ages 9 to 13 is at or above his or her adequate intake of calcium.

Tweens and teens need 1,300 milligrams (mg) of calcium a day to build strong bones for life. (Adults up to age 50 need about 1,000 mg a day.) Milk and milk products are excellent sources of calcium and other nutrients. Tweens and teens can get most of their daily calcium from 3 cups of low-fat or fat-free milk (approximately 900 mg), but they also need additional servings of foods that provide calcium to meet their calcium needs. Most milk is fortified with vitamin D, an important nutrient that helps the body absorb more calcium.

Calcium intake between the ages of 9 and 18 is critical for bone development because most bone mass (bone strength and density) accumulates during this time. Bones stop increasing in density after about age 30. But by getting the calcium they need now, tweens and teens will accomplish the following:

  • Strengthen bones now. Our bodies continually remove and replace small amounts of calcium from our bones. If more calcium is removed than is replaced, bones will become weaker and have a greater chance of breaking. Some researchers suspect that the rise in forearm fractures in children is due to decreased bone mass because children are drinking less milk and more soda, and are getting less exercise.
  • Help prevent osteoporosis later in life. Osteoporosis is a condition that makes bones weak so they break more easily. Bones rely on the calcium they store during the tween and teen years to stay strong throughout life. Although the effects of osteoporosis might not show up until adulthood, tweens and teens can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis by building strong bones when they are young.
  • Improve lifelong dental health. The calcium in milk products also helps make teeth, gums, and jawbones healthy and strong. Calcium may also help protect teeth against decay.

National Dairy Council

3-A-Day logoTo visit the National Dairy Council website and learn more about the National initiative to get kids and adults alike drinking the daily recommended serving of dairy products, called '3-a-day for dairy' .

National Dairy Council

Naturally nutritious and downright delicious!

With all of its health benefits, milk should be considered a "SUPER DRINK"! Log on to 'got milk' for fun and educational lessons on the health benefits of milk.

Got Milk

Oregon Dairy Council - Nutrition education services

The Oregon Dairy Council's website offers a wealth of information for educators and families. They offer tips, advice, worksheets and materials with topics like lactose intolerance, healthy bones, cooking and the food pyramid. Check out:

Oregon Dairy Council

More information about calcium and bone health can be found in Milk Matters: For Strong Bones - For Lifelong Health. You can order free copies at 1-800-370-2943 or:

National Institute of Child Health and Development - Bones

Information about maintaining a healthy weight can be found here: the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases fact sheet titled, Weight-loss and Nutrition Myths, at publications/PDFs/Myths.pdf.
Or, visit the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute's Aim for a Healthy Weight Web site at:
National Institute of Child Health and Development - Healthy Weight

More information on non-dairy food sources of calcium for tweens and teens can be found in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2005, Appendix B-4, Non-Dairy Food Sources of Calcium: - Calcium

Download the worksheets below for great classroom projects or lessons.

*Special thanks to Milk Matters for the Educational support of the dairy industry.

Think Local Umpqua logoWe also are a proud member of Think Local Umpquaa grassroots initiative promoting local small businesses in Douglas County.