Eating a healthy diet is essential for growth and height. Genetics is a primary factor in overall height, but nutrition is the key to having healthy bones and muscles that will allow your body to flourish and grow to its optimum height. This means you need a sensible, balanced diet with plenty of energy and nutrients. The glycemic index, or GI, diet is an example of a nutritious, balanced diet that contains all the required components for growth and height.
Glycemic Index Diet
The GI diet is based on a system that classifies food according to how quickly it releases glucose – or sugar – into your bloodstream, according to “Nutrition Through the Life Cycle." The GI diet, as outlined in “The Low GI Diet Revolution,” emphasizes eating low-glycemic-index foods such as whole grains, vegetables, some fruits, legumes and lean protein. It restricts starchy carbohydrates and nutrient-poor processed foods. The GI diet provides the following nutrients needed for growth and height: protein, carbohydrates, dairy calcium and vitamin D. And, according to “Nutrition Through the Life Cycle," it also protects against heart disease, cancer and high blood pressure.
Getting plenty of protein is essential for growth. “Williams' Basic Nutrition and Diet Therapy” book notes it is the fundamental growth substance in the body, responsible for supplying the amino acids essential for tissue development and repair. Because of this, children require more protein – 1 g per pound of body weight – compared with 0.4 g per pound in an adult.
Carbohydrates are your body's main source of energy, and fuel normal growth and height development, according to the book “Nutrition Through the Life Cycle.” Because carbs occur in a range of foods, including whole grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables, a healthy intake will also provide you with fiber and a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals.
One key mineral for growth and height is calcium, which is essential for healthy bone development, according to “Nutrition Through the Life Cycle.” The GI diet recommendation of eating milk, yogurt and cheese is supported by a Harvard study of 5,000 girls that showed a direct link between dairy intake and height, with those who consumed the most dairy growing the tallest.
Vitamin D, which helps facilitate calcium absorption, is a key component of bone growth, according to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. People who are vitamin D-deficient are at risk of rickets – a disease in which bone becomes soft and deformed – and diseases such as osteoporosis. Your skin makes vitamin D in the sunlight, but the Office of Dietary Supplements warns against too much sun exposure. You can get vitamin D in your diet through fortified foods such as dairy, soy, breads and cereals, and it occurs naturally in fatty fish, cheese, eggs and mushrooms – all low-GI foods.