Rickets is a disease characterized by soft, weak bones in children. The symptoms of rickets include pain and tenderness in the bones, especially in spine, arms, pelvis and legs; slow growth and/or short height; muscle cramps; and abnormal teeth. Rickets is caused by a deficiency in at least one of three essential nutrients: vitamin D, calcium or phosphorous. Therefore, a diet to reverse rickets needs to contain foods rich in at least one of these nutrients.
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Foods Rich in Vitamin D
Getting enough vitamin D supports strong bones and can prevent rickets. When ultraviolet rays from the sun hit the skin, the result is synthesis of vitamin D. However, children with very dark skin or who do not get enough sun exposure are susceptible to a vitamin D deficiency and therefore rickets. Eating foods rich in vitamin D can supply all the vitamin D to support strong bones. Good dietary sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, tuna, eggs and yogurt. Many foods have also been fortified with vitamin D, such as orange juice, milk, margarine and breakfast cereals.
Foods Rich in Calcium
A diet for rickets should also contain foods rich in the essential mineral calcium. More than 99 percent of calcium in the body accumulates in the bones, and this mineral is necessary in conjunction with vitamin D and phosphorous to prevent rickets. Foods rich in calcium are dairy-based foods such as milk, yogurt and cheese; leafy green vegetables like kale and spinach also contain a good amount of calcium.
Foods Rich in Phosphorous
Because phosphorous is necessary for strong bones, a rickets diet should also contain foods that provide essential mineral. Good dietary sources of phosphorous include some of the same foods that are rich in calcium: diary-based foods like milk, cheese and yogurt; eggs; and salmon. Other foods that contain phosphorous are whole-wheat and enriched bread; halibut, beef, chicken and turkey; and cola.
The Importance of Milk
Fortified milk is a beneficial addition to a rickets diet because it contains vitamin D, calcium and phosphorous. However, some people do not drink milk for one or more reasons, such as not liking milk, avoiding animal-based foods in general or being lactose intolerant. For these children, it is important that their rickets diet contain several of the other foods rich in vitamin D, calcium and/or phosphorous.
A vegetarian diet may lack the essential nutrients necessary to support strong bones and may lead to rickets. Eating fortified foods or taking vitamin supplements can prevent nutrient deficiencies to which vegetarians are susceptible.