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Calcium and Vitamin D

Calcium and vitamin D are very important for bone health. Together, they keep bones and teeth healthy and strong. They also work to prevent bones from breaking. Calcium and vitamin D are easy ways to help prevent osteoporosis. Osteoporosis refers to a bone disorder characterized by progressive loss in bone density.

Below you will find the recommended calcium intake based on your age as well as the calcium content in certain foods.

Recommended Calcium Intake

14 to 18 years old — 1,300mg
19 to 30 years old — 1,000mg
31 to 50 years old — 1,000mg
51- to 70-year-old females — 1,200mg
>70 years old — 1,200mg
14 to 18 years old, pregnant/lactating — 1,300mg
19 to 50 years old, pregnant/lactating — 1,000mg
Source: Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences, 2010.

Selected Calcium-Rich Foods

Fortified oatmeal, 1 packet — 350mg
Sardines, canned in oil, with edible bones, 3 oz. — 324mg
Cheddar cheese, 1½ oz. shredded — 306mg
Milk, nonfat, 1 cup — 302mg
Milkshake, 1 cup — 300mg
Yogurt, plain, low-fat, 1 cup — 300mg
Soybeans, cooked, 1 cup — 261mg
Tofu, firm, with calcium, ½ cup — 204mg
Orange juice, fortified with calcium, 6 oz. — 200–260mg (varies)
Salmon, canned, with edible bones, 3 oz. — 181mg
Pudding, instant (chocolate, banana, etc.) made with 2% milk, ½ cup — 153mg
Baked beans, 1 cup — 142mg
Cottage cheese, 1% milk fat, 1 cup — 138mg
Spaghetti, lasagna, 1 cup — 125mg
Frozen yogurt, vanilla, soft-serve, ½ cup — 103mg
Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with calcium, 1 cup — 100–1,000mg (varies)
Cheese pizza, 1 slice — 100mg
Fortified waffles, 2 — 100mg
Turnip greens, boiled, ½ cup — 99mg
Broccoli, raw, 1 cup — 90mg
Ice cream, vanilla, ½ cup — 85mg
Soy or rice milk, fortified with calcium, 1 cup — 80–500mg (varies)

Source: The 2004 Surgeon General’s Report on Bone Health and Osteoporosis: What It Means to You. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General, 2004, pages 12–13.

Vitamin D

The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. If vitamin D is not present at adequate levels, the body must take calcium from its stores in bones, which weakens existing bone and prevents the formation of strong, new bone.

You can get vitamin D in three ways: through the skin (from the sun), from your diet, and from supplements. We recommend women to take 1,000IU of vitamin D daily via supplements or vitamin D-rich foods such as egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver, and fortified milk. We suggest cholecalciferol (vitamin D3), when available, rather than ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) for vitamin D supplementation. The Institute of Medicine recommends no more than 4,000 IU per day for adults. However, sometimes we prescribe higher doses for people who are deficient in vitamin D.

NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center


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