Calcium and Vitamin D

 

Calcium and Vitamin D

The   Importance of Calcium

Calcium has many jobs in your body: it helps muscles contract (including your heart!), helps blood clot, sends nerve messages, and keeps bones strong. In fact, 99% of the calcium in your body is in your bones and teeth. You must eat calcium every day; otherwise your body will take it from your bones. Over time, this will cause you to have fragile bones that break easily.

Osteoporosis is a disease in which bones lose calcium and become weak. People with osteoporosis have a higher risk of fractures, developing kyphosis (i.e., a “hump back”), and losing height. Some people are at higher risk for osteoporosis.

Factors   you cannot control:

  • Being female
  • Post-menopausal
  • Over age 50
  • Family history
  • Small bone frame   and/or lean build

Factors   you can control:

  • Not enough   calcium and vitamin D in your diet
  • Not enough fruits   and vegetables in your diet
  • Not enough   exercise
  • Smoking and drinking   alcohol
  • Losing weight if   you are overweight

 Recommended Calcium Intake

How much calcium you need depends mainly on your age and gender. If you are keeping track of your calcium intake, don’t forget to count food sources and calcium in supplements.  

 Women under 50: 1000 mg daily           

Men under 70: 1000 mg daily

Women over 50: 1200 mg daily             

Men over 70: 1200 mg daily

 Calcium Content of Foods

Dairy products like milk, yogurt, and cheese are rich in calcium and also tend to be the best absorbed sources. There are also some good non-dairy sources.

Food

Serving   Size

Calcium

Content* (mg)

Plain   yogurt (NOT Greek)

1 cup

400

Calcium   fortified orange juice

1 cup

350

Milk

1 cup

300

String   cheese

1 stick

200

Feta   cheese, crumbled

¼ cup

185

Kidney   beans

½ cup

180

Collard   greens (cooked)

½ cup

175

Low   fat cottage cheese

1 cup

150

Spinach   (cooked)

½ cup

120

Frozen   yogurt

½ cup

105

Turnip   greens (cooked)

½ cup

100

Edamame

1 cup

70

Broccoli   spears (cooked)

½ cup

45

Soy   milk**

1 cup

Up to 350; varies widely by brand

Fortified   cereals

1 serving

Up to 1000; varies widely by brand

*Calcium content of foods may vary; read labels to determine the actual calcium content of a certain food.

** The nutrient content of soy milk varies greatly depending on the manufacturing process and whether the product is fortified.

The   Importance of Vitamin D

You cannot absorb the calcium you eat without enough vitamin D. Vitamin D is called “the sunshine vitamin” because under some conditions, your body can make enough of it if you expose your skin to the sun. However, this depends on the time of the year, where you live, your skin color, and if you are wearing sunscreen. Many people don’t spend enough time with their skin exposed to the sun to get enough vitamin D.

Vitamin D is also found in a few foods: mainly dairy products that have been fortified, egg yolks, and fatty fish like salmon and herring. Many foods are now fortified with calcium and vitamin D, too. Breakfast cereals, orange juice, breakfast bars, soy milk, tofu, and even some margarine now contain added calcium or calcium plus vitamin D.

If you don’t eat enough vitamin D foods and if you do not get enough sunlight exposure, you may need a vitamin D supplement. Ask your doctor and/or Registered Dietitian.

Recommended Vitamin D Intake

Age group

Vitamin D (IU)

Infants (up to 12   months)

400

Children   & adults

ages   1-70

600

Adults   over age 70

800

 Select Food Sources of Vitamin D

Food

Serving size

Vitamin D

(IU)

Salmon,   pink, canned (without skin & bones)

3 oz

480

Fortified   milk (skim, low fat, whole, or soy)

1 cup

100-120

Fortified   breakfast cereals (check labels)

1 oz

40-50

Egg   with yolk

1 large

40

Cheddar   cheese

1 oz

 

 

Other Considerations

Some people may benefit from higher doses of calcium and vitamin D. Ask your physician and/or Registered Dietitian about how much you should be getting:

  • If you are a post-menopausal woman
  • If you have inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), celiac disease, gastric bypass, or nutrient malabsorption
  • If you are taking corticosteroid or certain antibiotic medications (“steroids”)
  • You may also want to ask your doctor whether you need a bone density study if you have any of these conditions.

Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements

If you are unable to get enough calcium through diet alone, calcium supplements are available. The most common types of calcium supplements are calcium carbonate and calcium citrate. Calcium carbonate is more commonly available and less expensive. Calcium is best absorbed in doses of 500 mg or less and when taken with meals. If you need to take more than 500 mg per day, consider taking several smaller doses throughout the day.

Because they work together, many calcium supplements come with some vitamin D. Vitamin D also commonly comes in multivitamin supplements as well as alone in higher doses. Ask your doctor or Registered Dietitian before starting a vitamin D supplement because it is possible to take too much – very high levels may be toxic. 

Commonly Available Combined Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements

Type of Calcium

Calcium (mg)

Vitamin D (IU)

Calcium Carbonate

Tumsâ

200

0

Extra Strength   Tumsâ

300

0

Tumsâ Ultra

400

0

OscalâCalcium + D3

500

200

Oscalâ Extra + D31

500

600

Oscalâ Ultraâ2

600

500

Citracal Calcium   Pearls

200

500

Caltrateâ 600 + D3

600

800

Caltrateâ 600 + D3 Plus   Minerals1, 2

600

800

Viactivâ2

500

500

Calcium Citrate

Citracalâ regular

250

200

Citracalâ Maximum

315

250

Citracalâ Petites with   Vitamin D

200

250

Citracalâ Plus Magnesium2

250

125

1Available in chewable form.

2Contains additional vitamins &/or minerals; also, Viactivâ contains 20 calories per piece.

 Additional Resources

For more information on Calcium and Vitamin D, see the National Osteoporosis Foundation and the National Institute of Health websites: www.nof.org and www.nih.gov/