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Bone up on calcium and vitamin D

May 1, 2023
2 minutes

These essential nutrients can help strengthen your bones one meal and snack at a time
Are you getting enough calcium and vitamin D? Your bones depend on it. Consider: About 99% of the calcium in your body is in your bones and teeth. Your body can’t make its own calcium. It has to come from what you eat.

Without enough calcium on board—and vitamin D, which helps your body absorb calcium—your bones can weaken over time, putting you at risk for osteoporosis, the brittle bone disease that affects millions of older adults. Take action now to strengthen your skeleton.

Make the calcium connection
Low-fat and nonfat versions of dairy products—including milk, cheese and yogurt—are loaded with calcium and fortified with vitamin D, offering roughly 300 milligrams of calcium per 1-cup serving.

Other sources of calcium include tofu; fortified cereal; and orange juice, soy or rice milk, and other nondairy beverages that are fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Note: If you buy a fortified beverage, shake the container before pouring yourself a glass. Added calcium can settle at the bottom.

Read labels and choose foods with 20% to 30% daily value (DV) of calcium, which means that a food contains 200 or 300 milligrams of calcium per serving. Aim for three servings of calcium-rich foods or beverages per day.

Consider a supplement How much calcium and vitamin D you need each day depends on your age and gender.
Women age 50 and younger and men 70 and younger need 1,000 milligrams of calcium daily. At age 51 if you’re a woman and 71 if you’re a man, you need to bump up your calcium intake to 1,200 milligrams per day.

All adults should aim for 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D daily until age 71, when your needs increase to 800 IU daily. If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, try to get 1,000 milligrams of calcium and 600 IU of vitamin D daily.

You might want to take a calcium or vitamin D supplement if you can’t get enough of these vital nutrients from food alone. For best calcium absorption, take a supplement with a meal or snack.

Strong bones for a lifetime
Don’t let broken bones sneak up on you. For more food for thought, talk to your primary care provider about your calcium and vitamin D needs. The steps you take now can pay off for a lifetime.

Sources: Bone Health & Osteoporosis Foundation; National Institutes of Health

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