Calcium and Vitamin D are both essential to our health – specifically bone health. Basically, they are partners in helping our body absorb the calcium we need to strengthen our bones.
What are calcium and vitamin D?
Calcium and vitamin D are nutrients that provide important benefits for your body. These two micronutrients work in tandem for maximized nutrient absorption. Calcium is a mineral that helps bones stay strong and vitamin D helps facilitate calcium absorption, making it easier for your body to use the calcium you get from foods.
What are the health benefits of calcium and vitamin D?
Calcium and vitamin D help bones stay strong. Our bodies are continuously removing small amounts of calcium from our bones and replacing it with new calcium. Women’s bones are naturally thinner and less dense than men’s, and compared to men, women start losing bone mass and density at an earlier age.
Eating a diet rich in calcium is important for replacing lost calcium deposits in bone. There’s another component to the bone health formula though, and that’s vitamin D. Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium more efficiently, which helps your body get the most out of the calcium you are consuming. Some bone loss caused by lifestyle, medications, or menopause may not be preventable, however, a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is a step in the right direction for osteoporosis prevention and general health maintenance.
Calcium and vitamin D are most commonly known for promoting bone health, but they also provide important benefits for our heart, muscles and nerves.
What are calcium and vitamin D-rich sources?
There are many foods that are naturally high in both calcium and vitamin D such as milk, yogurt and cheese. Some additional foods that are rich sources of calcium and vitamin D include kale, broccoli, eggs, fortified items such as orange juice, and certain types of fish such as cod and salmon. There are also a number of packaged foods, such as cereal, fruit juices, soy and rice beverages and tofu, which provide calcium and vitamin D either inherently or through fortification. For those unable to meet the daily requirements, vitamin D and calcium supplements could be a potential option. However, consuming vitamin D and calcium from food sources have an added benefit since these foods may also contain fiber, micronutrients, and macronutrients.
What amount of calcium and vitamin D should I consume?
The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) for calcium and vitamin D are based on age and therefore different age groups have different recommended levels. The current daily recommended intake for calcium for children ages 1 through 3 is 500 milligrams (mg). For children 4 through 8, the RDA is 1000 mg. For adolescents, the RDA is 1,300 to support bone growth associated with puberty. Adults aged 19-50 and for men until age 71, the RDA is is 1000mg. However, for women over 50 and people age 71 and older, the RDA is 1,200 mg. The RDA for vitamin D is normalized to sun exposure since vitamin D can be generated following exposure to the sun. As such, 600 international units (IUs) are recommended for most Americans, and 800 IUs are recommended for people age 71 and older.
What are some meal ideas that could incorporate calcium and vitamin D into my diet?
1. 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 7th edition. http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/Publications/DietaryGuidelines/2010/PolicyDoc/PolicyDoc.pdf
2. National Institutes of Health. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Bone/Bone_Health/Nutrition/