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Healthy Eating: Taking Calcium and Vitamin D


Table of Contents


Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.   Healthy Eating: Taking Calcium and Vitamin D

Bone thinning occurs as part of the natural process of aging. If the thinning continues to the point that your bones become fragile and in danger of breaking, you have osteoporosis. But osteoporosis is considered a preventable disease.

Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  What are the recommended daily amounts of calcium and vitamin D?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Why are calcium and vitamin D used to treat or prevent osteoporosis?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  How can you get enough calcium and vitamin D in your daily diet?
Actionsets help people take an active role in managing a health condition.  Where to go from here

What? - What is the medical information or key concepts related to the action?  What are the recommended daily amounts of calcium and vitamin D?

Calcium should always be taken with vitamin D, because vitamin D is needed for the body to absorb calcium.

Recommended calcium and vitamin D by age 1, 2
Age Recommended calcium intake (milligrams a day) Recommended vitamin D intake (international units a day)
1–3 years 700 600
4–8 years 1,000 600
9–18 years 1,300 600
19–50 years 1,000 600
Males 51–70 years 1,000 600
Females 51–70 years 1,200 600
71 and older 1,200 800

Women who are pregnant or breast-feeding need the same amount of calcium and vitamin D as other women their age.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. If I am a woman older than age 50, I need about 1,200 mg of calcium a day to keep my bones strong and healthy.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      The recommended daily amount of calcium for women older than 50 is 1,200 mg. Postmenopausal women need to increase the calcium in their diets to reduce the effects of bone loss, which naturally occurs after menopause. Osteoporosis develops as a result of bone loss. Calcium helps slow the rate of bone loss.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      The recommended daily amount of calcium for women older than 50 is 1,200 mg. Postmenopausal women need to increase the calcium in their diets to reduce the effects of bone loss, which naturally occurs after menopause. Osteoporosis develops as a result of bone loss. Calcium helps slow the rate of bone loss.


Why? - Why the action is important?  Why are calcium and vitamin D used to treat or prevent osteoporosis?

Calcium, combined with vitamin D and weight-bearing exercise, keeps bone loss from getting worse or helps reduce the rate of bone loss that occurs with osteoporosis. Your bones need vitamin D to absorb calcium. Taking vitamin D along with calcium can help strengthen your bones.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. Calcium increases bone mass and reduces the risk for osteoporosis.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      Calcium helps build strong bones. The stronger your bones are, the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis. Getting enough daily calcium when you have osteoporosis will help reduce bone loss.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      Calcium helps build strong bones. The stronger your bones are, the less likely you are to develop osteoporosis. Getting enough daily calcium when you have osteoporosis will help reduce bone loss.


How? - Learn the steps involved in taking action.  How can you get enough calcium and vitamin D in your daily diet?

Many foods contain high amounts of calcium. It is important that you also get enough vitamin D along with calcium to help your body absorb the calcium.

Calcium is in foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. Vegetables like broccoli, kale, and Chinese cabbage have calcium. You can get calcium if you eat the soft edible bones in canned sardines and canned salmon. Foods with added (fortified) calcium include some cereals, juices, soy drinks, and tofu. The food label will show how much calcium was added.

Vitamin D is in foods such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. These are some of the best foods to eat when trying to get more vitamin D. Other foods with vitamin D, but in small amounts, include cheese, egg yolks, and beef liver. You can also get vitamin D from fortified foods such as milk and some cereals, orange juices, yogurts, margarines, and soy drinks.

For example, a good source of calcium is fat-free milk fortified with vitamin D. Four cups a day provide about 1,200 mg of calcium. Other good sources of calcium include shrimp, blackstrap molasses, calcium-fortified tofu, and almonds.

Everyone who has been diagnosed with osteoporosis should try to eat a diet rich in these nutrients. People who do not get enough calcium from their diet may need to take a calcium supplement with vitamin D.

Types of calcium supplements include:

You can get calcium supplements at most grocery stores and pharmacies. They come in tablets, chewables, and capsules. Not all supplements contain the same amount of calcium or contain vitamin D, so read the label to see which one is best for you.

Consider how much calcium and vitamin D you normally get in your diet. Then each day take the number of tablets that satisfies your daily recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D based on your age and health condition. Be careful not to take more than you need.

Test Your Knowledge

  1. I am 35 years old and drink 2 cups of milk a day. That's enough calcium to reduce my risk of bone loss.

    1. True

      This answer is incorrect.

      Drinking milk fortified with vitamin D can be a great way to get calcium. But you would have to drink 3 to 4 cups a day to get the recommended 1,000 mg of calcium a day. You may need to add additional foods such as a cup of yogurt or some salmon to get the recommended daily amount for your age.

    2. False

      This answer is correct.

      Drinking milk fortified with vitamin D can be a great way to get calcium. But you would have to drink 3 to 4 cups a day to get the recommended 1,000 mg of calcium a day. You may need to add additional foods such as a cup of yogurt or some salmon to get the recommended daily amount for your age.


  2. I am a woman older than 65, and I do not eat dairy products. I can get enough calcium by taking a good calcium supplement along with getting enough vitamin D to help my body absorb the calcium.

    1. True

      This answer is correct.

      Taking 1,200 mg of calcium supplements combined with 600 IU of vitamin D a day can provide all the daily calcium you need. You may also want to consider supplementing your daily diet with other foods rich in calcium so your body can absorb small amounts of calcium throughout each day.

    2. False

      This answer is incorrect.

      Taking 1,200 mg of calcium supplements combined with 600 IU of vitamin D a day can provide all the daily calcium you need. You may also want to consider supplementing your daily diet with other foods rich in calcium so your body can absorb small amounts of calcium throughout each day.


Where? - Other resources and organizations that can help you take action.  Where to go from here

Now that you have read this information, you can feel confident that you know how to get enough calcium daily to prevent or treat osteoporosis and reduce your risk for bone loss.

Talk with your doctor

If you have questions, take this information with you when you visit your doctor.

References

Citations

  1. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2011). Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): Recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, elements. Available online: http://iom.edu/Activities/Nutrition/SummaryDRIs/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/New%20Material/2_%20RDA%20and%20AI%20Values_Vitamin%20and%20Elements.pdf.

  2. Food and Nutrition Board, Institute of Medicine (2011). Dietary reference intakes (DRIs): Recommended dietary allowances and adequate intakes, vitamins. Available online: http://iom.edu/Activities/Nutrition/SummaryDRIs/~/media/Files/Activity%20Files/Nutrition/DRIs/New%20Material/2_%20RDA%20and%20AI%20Values_Vitamin%20and%20Elements.pdf.

Credits for Healthy Eating: Taking Calcium and Vitamin D

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Carla J. Herman, MD, MPH - Geriatric Medicine
Last Revised July 30, 2013

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