Calcium and Vitamin D to Build Bone
Osteoporosis Treatment and Prevention
Your bones contain a lot of calcium; almost 100% of your total calcium is in your bones, actually. Calcium is the nutrient that helps you build new bones, so throughout your life, you've got to get enough calcium if you want to have healthy bones. If you have osteoporosis and are prone to fractures, it's even more important to get enough calcium.
However, you also need to get enough vitamin D because your body needs that to properly absorb the calcium. Without enough vitamin D, you won't be able to use all the calcium you're taking in. As you watch your bone health, keep a careful eye on how much calcium and vitamin D you're getting.
How much calcium you need depends on many factors, including how old you are. We've given a list below with general recommendations of calcium intake by age, but please keep in mind that these are guidelines. You should talk to your doctor about how much calcium is best for you on a daily basis.
Children and Young Adults
|• 1-3 years||500mg|
|• 4-8 year||800mg|
|• 9-18 years||1,300mg|
Adult Women and Men
|• 50+ years||1,200mg|
Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women
|• Under 18 years||1,300mg|
|• 19+ years||1,000mg|
So now you have a good idea of how much calcium you should get every day, but what's the best way to get it? It is possible to get enough calcium through what you eat and drink every day. Here are some foods that will help you get calcium for your bones:
|Low-fat or Skim Milk||300mg in 8 oz.|
|Low-fat Plain Yogurt||415mg in 8 oz.|
|Swiss Cheese||220-270mg in 1 oz.|
|Cooked Broccoli||60mg in 8 oz.|
|Fruit Juice with Added Calcium||200-260mg in 6 oz.|
Those are simply estimates for the amount of calcium; always look at the food label for what you're eating to get an accurate number. That's also just a sampling of what you could eat as you get your calcium for the day. To learn more about what foods best fit into a diet plan for bone health, take our Osteoporosis Food Quiz.
If you can't get enough calcium from your diet, you can take supplements to make sure you get the appropriate amount. For example, some people may be lactose intolerant, making it more of a challenge to get all the calcium they need. In cases where you aren't getting the right amount of calcium, you should talk to your doctor about a supplement. He or she will help you figure out the best calcium supplement and how much you should take. As a word of warning, getting too much calcium is also detrimental to your health, so you've got the find the best balance for you.
Vitamin D is what helps our bodies absorb calcium. Conveniently enough, our bodies make vitamin D when we're out in the sunshine. This alone is a reason to go outside more—even just 15 minutes of sun exposure a day will substantially boost your vitamin D production.
However, the sun comes with various risks, such as skin cancer. Additionally, some people just can't make enough vitamin D, no matter how much they're out in the sun. It's good, then, that vitamin D is also found in some foods:
- Vitamin D-fortified Milk
- Egg Yolks
- Fatty fish
It may still be difficult for some people to get enough vitamin D, either from the sun or from food. For those people, there are vitamin D supplements. Your doctor should be able to tell if you need these with an easy blood test that tells how much vitamin D you're getting.
There are two types of vitamin D supplements: D3 and D2. Researchers once thought that D3 was better than D2 for bone health; however, new research (from 2008) suggest that D3 and D2 are both good for your bones.
Just like calcium, the amount of vitamin D you need depends on your age:
|Children and Young Adults|
|• 1-18 years||400 IU|
|Adult Women and Men|
|• 19-49 years||400-800 IU|
|• 50+ years||800-1,000 IU|
|Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women|
|• Any age||400-800 IU|
(The IU stands for international units—that's how vitamin D is measured.)
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