Calcium Foods to Boost Height Growth

Calcium Foods to Boost Height Growth

Maximizing growth potential during childhood and the teenage years involves getting adequate nutrition to support developing bones. Calcium is one of the most important nutrients for bone health and height growth before growth plates fuse. Consuming sufficient calcium from a variety of food sources can help optimize bone development. Let’s examine which calcium-rich foods to incorporate into a balanced diet to promote height in youth.

Role of Calcium in Bone Development

Calcium plays a key structural role in bones and teeth. Here's how it supports growth in height:
  1. It is the most abundant mineral found in bone tissue. Calcium phosphate and calcium carbonate make up the hydroxyapatite crystals that provide strength and rigidity to bones.
  2. During childhood and adolescence, adequate calcium intake allows for increased bone tissue accrual and enhanced bone density. This supports reaching maximum length potential of long bones in the legs and spine.
  3. Calcium allows cartilage growth plates at the end of long bones to ossify or harden at an appropriate rate as a child matures. Too rapid ossification may restrict height.
  4. The body strictly regulates calcium levels in the blood. If dietary calcium intake is insufficient, calcium will be leached from bones to maintain blood calcium, weakening bone integrity.
Consuming enough calcium-rich foods with each meal ensures bone growth needs are met to foster lengthening of long bones and spinal vertebrae.

Recommended Calcium Intake

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for calcium intake varies by age:
  • 1-3 years: 700mg daily
  • 4-8 years: 1000mg daily
  • 9-13 years: 1300mg daily
  • 14-18 years: 1300mg daily
The majority of calcium should come from food rather than supplements which may increase kidney stone risk. Aiming to meet but not dramatically exceed the RDA with dietary calcium is optimal for supporting bone development at each stage of growth.

Top Calcium-Rich Food Sources

Role of Calcium in Bone Development

These foods provide the most abundant dietary calcium for height growth:

Dairy Products
  • Milk - 272mg per 8 oz
  • Yogurt - 450mg per 8 oz
  • Cheese - 200mg per oz
Dairy provides some of the most bioavailable calcium absorbed at 32%. Opt for low fat versions.

Nondairy Milks
  • Calcium-fortified soy, almond, oat, rice or hemp milk – at least 30% DV per cup
  • Tofu made with calcium - 253mg per 3.5 oz
Choose fortified nondairy milks to get similar calcium as dairy milk.

Canned Fish
  • Sardines with bones - 325mg per 3 oz tin
  • Salmon with bones - 181mg per 3oz can
Canned fish with edible soft bones are an excellent source.

Certain Vegetables
  • Cooked collard greens - 266mg per cup
  • Bok choy - 158mg per cup
  • Broccoli - 43mg per cup
Focus on dark leafy greens to get calcium plus other nutrients.

Nuts & Seeds
  • Almonds - 75mg per oz
  • Sesame seeds - 88mg per oz
Add these to meals for a calcium boost.

  • Edamame - 100mg per cup
  • White beans - 113mg per cup
Beans provide a modest amount of highly bioavailable calcium.

Fortified Foods
  • Calcium-set tofu - 434mg per 3 oz
  • Calcium-fortified orange juice - 500mg per cup
  • Calcium-fortified cereal – 100-1000mg per serving
Look for breakfast cereals and other items with added calcium.

Tips for Meeting Calcium Needs

  1. Aim for 2-3 good calcium sources at each meal.
  2. Include a serving of calcium-rich food with each snack.
  3. Opt for multiple smaller calcium doses throughout the day rather than one large dose.
  4. Pair calcium-rich foods with a vitamin C source to enhance absorption.
  5. Choose low-fat, low-sugar calcium options like nonfat Greek yogurt.
  6. If lactose intolerant, try lactose-free milk, natural aged cheeses, or lactose enzyme tablets.
  7. Don’t over-restrict fats, as some dietary fat aids calcium absorption.
Meeting recommended calcium intakes through food sources should support reaching one’s height potential programmed by genetics, assuming no other nutrient deficiencies or health conditions interfere with growth. While supplements can help fill gaps if dietary calcium falls short, foods provide more than just calcium for building strong, elongated bones.

Other Lifestyle Factors Supporting Height Growth

Along with optimal calcium intake, these practices also foster proper development:
  1. Engage in regular weight-bearing exercise and physical activity to strengthen bones and muscles.
  2. Get sufficient vitamin D for calcium absorption, either through sun exposure, foods, or supplements.
  3. Consume adequate protein at all meals for growth, tissue repair and muscle development.
  4. Enjoy a balanced, nutritious diet with fruits, vegetables, healthy fats and whole grains.
  5. Maintain a healthy body weight without dramatic restrictions in energy intake.
  6. Follow guidance from your pediatrician regarding growth milestones and nutritional needs.
Proper nutrition, especially meeting calcium needs, lays the foundation. But multiple lifestyle factors work synergistically to support height development.

Getting enough calcium from regular consumption of dairy, greens, beans, fish, nuts and fortified foods helps promote bone lengthening and growth in height during childhood and adolescence. When paired with other healthy habits like exercise, adequate vitamin D and protein intake, following the recommended calcium intakes for each age group can assist youth in maximizing their genetically pre-determined height potential. However, multiple factors affect growth. Calcium alone is insufficient to dramatically alter height beyond what is programmed by one’s DNA. With realistic expectations paired with dedication to a nutrient-dense diet containing diverse calcium-rich foods, proper calcium intake can work together with other lifestyle factors to foster bone health and development.