Bone Building Nutrients: Calcium and Vitamin D

By Gaby Burt-D’Agnillo, BSc Nutrition Candidate

Reviewed by Andrea Miller MHSc, RD

Maintaining bone health as you age is important to prevent your risk of osteoporosis, falls, and fractures. This month, we are talking about key nutrients that will keep your bones strong and healthy: Calcium and Vitamin D!


Calcium is an important mineral that the body uses to build healthy bones and teeth. Calcium also plays a role in heart health, muscle function, and nerve signalling. As you age, it is important to maintain bone density by living a healthy, active life. Calcium can be found in a variety of foods including milk, yogurt, cheese, kefir, canned fish, cooked greens, legumes, spinach, and fortified beverages.

How much do I need?

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA)
Adults 19-50 years 1000 mg
Men over 50 years 1000 mg
Women over 50 years 1200 mg

Do I need a calcium supplement?

If you eat a healthy and balanced diet, that includes calcium-rich food sources, you likely do not need a calcium supplement. A calcium supplement may be beneficial, however, if you are lactose intolerant, if you have a milk protein allergy or have trouble eating enough calcium-rich foods. To calculate how much calcium you’re getting, check out this calcium calculator from Osteoporosis Canada.

 

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps the body absorb and use calcium. Vitamin D works with calcium to keep your bones and teeth strong, and maintain functionality of your muscles, nerves, and immune system. Vitamin D is primarily produced by the skin when we are exposed to sunlight. It is also found in food sources such as fortified cow’s milk, other fortified beverages, fatty fish, and eggs.

How much do I need?

The amount of vitamin D you need depends on your age. From age 9 to 70 years, aim for 600 IU (15 mcg) per day. Over the age of 70, the RDA increases to 800 IU (20 mcg) per day. For reference, 3 ounces of cooked salmon contains about 450 IU and one cup of fortified milk contains about 100 IU. You should not exceed 4,000 IU per day to prevent toxicity and adverse effects.

Do I need a Vitamin D supplement?

Yes, you do need a supplement. Adults who do not get enough vitamin D from foods or have low blood levels of vitamin D may require a supplement. Over the age of 50 years, Health Canada recommends that all adults take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU.

Osteoporosis

Maintaining adequate levels of calcium and vitamin D may decrease your risk of developing osteoporosis. Osteoporosis occurs when the bones are weak and become prone to fractures. In Canada, about 1.4 million people have osteoporosis – 1 in 4 women and 1 in 8 men may be affected. Your risk of developing the condition depends on your age, weight, diet, and lifestyle habits. Some steps you can take to reduce your risk, are to get enough bone building nutrients through your diet, staying active, limiting caffeine to 400 mg a day, and refraining from smoking. For more information on osteoporosis, check out this tip sheet from Dietitians of Canada.

If you have questions about maintaining your bone health, follow us on Twitter or book an appointment today!

To read more about calcium, visit Unlock Food here and here.

For more information on Vitamin D, click here.

 

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