Bone and Body Health

Calcium, Vitamin D and MagnesiumThe Big 3 for Bone Health

Eating for bone health can be one of the easiest and most meaningful ways to take care of yourself. That’s because filling your plate with enough of the right foods can help prevent a host of skeletal injuries and diseases, such as spinal fractures and osteoporosis. But it’s also easy to get overwhelmed when you’re navigating the ever-changing sea of nutrition guidelines and advice telling you what to eat and what not to eat in order to stay healthy.

One source of information will tell you to get 700 mg of one nutrient and 1000 mg of three others, while another source will tell you to simply pile on multiple servings of the latest superfood to cure whatever ails you. This surplus of information, some from questionable sources, can be confusing, and can lead to unnecessary dietary changes. If you’re unsure how to translate the wealth of bone nutrition advice to your plate, take a simpler approach and focus on these three nutrients: calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium.
Mineral periodic tableCalcium: The Bone-Builder
Why it’s important:
Calcium is the foundational mineral within your bones that keeps them strong and healthy. It’s essential to supply your bones with enough calcium throughout your life in order to continue building bones and maintaining bone structure. When your body needs calcium for other tasks, such as sending nerve impulses and maintaining your heartbeat, it draws what it needs from your bones. Consuming calcium-rich foods everyday ensures that your bone stores will be replenished. If you don’t give your body enough calcium, your bones become weak, making you susceptible to debilitating spinal fractures and osteoporosis.

Foods to choose: Dairy products, such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, pack the most calcium per serving size, but the nondairy sources below also contribute some calcium to the diet:

  • Dark green, leafy vegetables, such as kale, broccoli, bok choy, and collard greens
  • Calcium-fortified foods like plant-based milks, juices, and cereals
  • Canned salmon and sardines with bones
  • Sesame, chia, and poppy seeds
  • Almonds

How much you need: Calcium recommendations largely depend on your age:

  • Men and women age 19-50, including pregnant women, need 1,000 mg a day.
  • Men age 51-70 need 1,000 mg a day.
  • Women age 51-70 need 1,200 mg a day.
  • Everyone age 71 and over should get 1,200 mg a day.

Did you know? Only 25% of Americans get the recommended amount calcium every day, according to American Bone Health.

Vitamin D: Putting Calcium’s Benefits to Work for You
Why it’s important:
In order to fully absorb calcium from your food, you need vitamin D. When you don’t get enough vitamin D, your risk of developing osteoporosis and losing bone strength increases. Many doctors now recommend vitamin D supplements for their patients.
Sketch with "Vitamin D" written in the sun and related words surrounding it.Foods to choose: Unlike calcium, it’s not easy to get your recommended amounts of vitamin D from food alone, because few foods contain naturally occurring vitamin D. But incorporating some of the following foods into your diet every day can help you get what you need:

  • Vitamin D-fortified foods, such as dairy products, cereals and some juices
  • Egg yolks
  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, sardines, and swordfish

How much you need: Like calcium, your vitamin D requirement depends on your age:

  • People age 19-50 need 600 mg a day.
  • Pregnant or nursing women between 19-50 years should get 800 mg a day.
  • People age 51-70 need 600 mg a day.
  • Everyone age 71 and over should get 800 mg a day.

Did you know? Vitamin D is actually a hormone that helps regulate your immune system and reduce inflammation. Your body can produce vitamin D when sunlight passes through your skin. And, when your blood stream carries vitamin D to your intestine, it triggers the absorption of calcium from food and supplements.

Magnesium: Keeping It All Balanced
Why it’s important: In addition to helping your nerves and muscles function properly, magnesium helps regulate your body’s use of calcium and vitamin D and maintain bone structure.

Foods to choose: Next time you’re at the grocery store, stock up on the following magnesium-packed foods:

  • Dark green vegetables, such as kale, okra, bok choy, and collard greens
  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Legumes
  • Sesame, chia, and poppy seeds
  • Whole-grain products
  • Chocolate

How much you need: Daily magnesium recommendations vary by age and sex:

  • Men age 19-30 need 400 mg a day.
  • Women age 19-30 need 310 mg a day (pregnant women need 350 mg, nursing women need 310 mg).
  • Men 31-50 need 420 mg a day.
  • Women 31-50 need 320 mg a day (pregnant women need 360 mg, nursing women need 320 mg).
  • Men age 51 and over should get 420 mg a day.
  • Women age 51 and over should get 320 mg a day.

Did you know? Moderate alcohol consumption, and use of diuretics or proton pump inhibitors* can cause increased urination that depletes your magnesium supply. If any of these conditions apply to you, ask your doctor about taking supplements to help replenish your magnesium stores.

*Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are prescription and over-the-counter medications that reduce the production of acid in the stomach.

Keep It Simple for Strong Spinal Bones
Many nutrients contribute to the development and maintenance of healthy bones, but calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium are backed by the strongest body of evidence showing a clear connection to bone health. A simple and straight-forward focus on eating foods rich in this trio may help keep the bones of your spine—and throughout your body—strong and supportive for life-long healthy movement.

 

Sources
About Vitamin D. American Bone Health. https://americanbonehealth.org/nutrition/about-vitamin-d/. Accessed June 20, 2017.

BONESENSE on Calcium and Vitamin D: Dynamic Duo for Bone Health PDF. American Bone Health. Published 2013. Accessed June 20, 2017.

Calcium and Vitamin D Requirements. American Bone Health. https://americanbonehealth.org/nutrition/how-much-calcium-and-vitamin-d-do-you-need/. Accessed June 20, 2017.

Magnesium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/. Updated February 11, 2016. Accessed June 20, 2017.

Minerals for Bone Health. American Bone Health. https://americanbonehealth.org/nutrition/minerals-for-bone-health/. Accessed June 20, 2017.

Nutrients for Bone Health. American Bone Health. https://americanbonehealth.org/nutrition/nutrientsforbonehealth/. Accessed June 20, 2017.

Calcium: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Calcium-HealthProfessional/ Updated November 17, 2016. Accessed June 20, 2017.

Vitamin D: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/ Updated February 11, 2016. Accessed June 20, 2017.

Updated on: 07/28/17
SHOW MAIN MENU
SHOW SUB MENU
Cancel
Delete
Continue Reading:

Calcium Is Essential for Strong Back and Neck Bones

Calcium supplements can help you reach your daily recommended amount of calcium, but they are not intended to replace calcium-rich foods.
Read More