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Calcium and vitamin D

Calcium helps bones and teeth stay strong. It is also needed by almost every cell in the body to keep it working properly.

Maintaining an adequate calcium intake is an important step towards good bone health throughout life. The main goal of good calcium nutrition is to maintain an adequate supply so that our body does not have to dip into the reserve of calcium in our bones.

Calcium is important throughout childhood in helping with the development of a healthy skeleton. Peak bone mass is achieved in women by the time they are about 16 and in men by the time they are approximately 20 years of age. The density of the bone, which will mean the strength of the bone, at this time, is greatly influenced by the amount of calcium one had before in the growing years during childhood and adolescence. The greater the bone mass at this point, the less likely the bones will become weak, porous and fragile later in life.

How much calcium do you need on a daily basis

Osteoporosis Canada recommends the following intake calcium (total intake through diet and supplementation) on a daily basis:

Age Daily Calcium Requirement
4 to 8 800 mg
9 to 18 1300 mg
19 to 50 1000 mg
50+ 1200 mg
Pregnant or lactating women 18+ 1000 mg
What foods are rich in calcium?

You may be wondering how to ensure you get an adequate amount of calcium in your diet. A great way to start the day is a cup of milk with hot or cold cereal. Adding a slice of cheese to a sandwich or having a canned salmon sandwich are both excellent lunchtime ideas to add another 200-300 mg. For supper, a tofu stir fry with green vegetables such as broccoli and kale can boost your calcium by another 300 mg.

Click here for delicious bone-healthy recipes.

What if I don't eat dairy products but still want to include calcium in my diet?

One of the most frequently asked question about a dairy-free diet is "How will I get enough calcium?" For those who can't or prefer not to consume dairy products, it is still important to make sure you get enough calcium from other sources. Luckily, there are many other ways to ensure you eat a calcium-rich diet. Foods containing calcium include broccoli, kale, bok choy, canned fish with bones such as sardines, nuts (almonds and Brazilian nuts in particular) and tofu set with calcium.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and store calcium from the foods we eat. Our bodies can produce vitamin D when we are exposed to sunlight.

However, during the winter months, most Canadians do not get enough sun exposure to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D, nor do we get enough vitamin D through our dietary intake. Vitamin D intake can be enhanced through dietary sources and supplements.

How much vitamin D do you need on a daily basis?

Osteoporosis Canada recommends the following intake of vitamin D (total intake through diet and supplementation) on a daily basis:

AgeVitamin D Requirement*
19-50400 - 1000 IU
50+800 - 2000 IU
Pregnant or lactating women 18+400 IU
* For those who don't have osteoporosis and don't have a condition that interferes with vitamin D absorption
IU = International Units
What foods are rich in vitamin D?

Fortified milk contains vitamin D as do foods such as margarine, eggs, chicken livers, salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, swordfish and fish oils (halibut and cod liver oils). It may be difficult to get enough vitamin D through diet alone. You may need to take supplements.

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Calcium content of some common foods Serving Size Calcium*
Milk—2%, 1%, skim, chocolate1 cup / 250 ml300 mg
Buttermilk1 cup/250 ml285 mg
Cheese—Mozzarella1 1/4''/3 cm cube200 mg
Cheese—Cheddar, Edam, Gouda1 1/4''/3 cm cube245 mg
Yogurt—plain3/4 cup/185 ml295 mg
Milk—powder, dry1/3 cup/75 ml270 mg
Ice cream1/2 cup/125 ml80 mg
Cottage cheese—2%, 1%1/2 cup/125 ml75 mg
Sardines, with bones1/2 can/55 g200mg
Salmon, with bones—canned1/2 can/105 g240 mg
Fortified rice or soy beverage1 cup/250 ml300 mg
Fortified orange juice1 cup/250 ml300 mg
Molasses, blackstrap1 tbsp./15 ml180 mg
Sesame seeds1/2 cup/125 ml95 mg
Beans, baked1/2 cup/125 ml75 mg
Beans (kidney, lima) — cooked1 cup/250 ml50 mg
Soybeans—cooked1 cup/250 ml170 mg
Taco1 small221 mg
Tofu—with calcium sulfate3 oz./84 g130 mg
Muffin—bran (homemade with milk)1 medium84 mg
Bread—whole wheat2 slices40 mg
Instant oatmeal, calcium added1 pouch/32 g150 mg
Broccoli—cooked3/4 cup/185 ml50 mg
Orange1 medium50 mg
Banana1 medium10 mg
Bok Choy1/2 cup/125 ml75 mg
Figs - dried10150 mg
*Approximate values
+Calcium-enriched milk - add 100 mg per serving
Non-dairy foods

For comparison, one cup of milk contains 315 mg of calcium.

Non-dairy foods Serving Size Calcium*
Almonds1/4 cup103 mg
Baked beans - canned1 cup154 mg
Black—eyed peas1 cup, boiled211 mg
Blackstrap molasses1 Tbsp172 mg
Bok choy, cooked1/2 cup84 mg
Broccoli, cooked3 spears51 mg
Calcium—fortified orange juice6 oz200 mg
Chinese cabbage, raw1 cup74 mg
Collard greens, boiled1 cup357 mg
Figs, dried5 medium90 mg
Firm tofu - made with calcium sulfate1/2 cup204 mg
Fortified soy beverage1 cup300 mg
Fortified soymilk1 cup368 mg
Kale1 cup, cooked94 mg
Oranges1 cup72 mg
Salmon - canned with bones1/2 cup181 mg
Tropicana® Orange juice with calcium *1 cup344 mg
White beans - cooked1 cup202 mg
*Tropicana is a registered trademark of Tropicana Products, Inc.
Vitamin D Content in common foods Serving Size IUS
per serving*
Cod liver oil1 Tbsp.1,360
Salmon (sockeye) - cooked3 oz.794
Mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light to increase vitamin D, 3 ounces (not yet commonly available)3 oz.400
Mackerel - cooked3 oz.388
Tuna fish, canned in water, drained3 oz.154
Milk, nonfat, reduced fat, and whole, vitamin D-fortified1 cup115-124
Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, (check product labels, as amount of added vitamin D varies)1 cup100
Yogurt, fortified with 20% of the DV for vitamin D (more heavily fortified yogurts provide more of the DV)6 oz.80
Margarine, fortified1 Tbsp.60
Sardines, canned in oil, drained 2 sardines46
Liver, beef - cooked3.5 oz.46
Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with 10% of the DV for vitamin D (more heavily fortified cereals might provide more of the DV)0.75 - 1 cup40
Egg (vitamin D is found in yolk)1 whole egg25
Cheese, Swiss1 oz.6
*IUs = International Units.
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