How many times have you heard “eat calcium for strong bones”? Probably too many times to count. Just as skin cells are constantly breaking down, shedding, and being replaced, so are your bone cells. Calcium is needed to grow new bone cells, keep bones strong, and prevent osteoporosis. But did you know calcium is also important for the health of your heart, muscle function, blood flow, nerves, and hormones? Unfortunately, getting calcium isn’t enough. You could eat calcium-rich foods all day, but it wouldn’t do much good if you didn’t also get vitamin D. That’s because vitamin D is needed for your body to absorb calcium and reap its benefits.
Where can you get calcium and vitamin D? And are you getting enough?
You should thank your mother for making you drink your milk at dinnertime as a child. Dairy products including milk, yogurt, and cheese are some of the best sources of calcium. If you don’t care for dairy foods, are vegan, or are lactose intolerant, don’t lose heart. There are other ways to get this vital nutrient in your diet.
The following non-dairy foods are also high in calcium:
Best Sources of Vitamin D
Unlike calcium, vitamin D isn’t found in many foods and is only found in small amounts in those few foods. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible to find.
You can get vitamin D from the following:
You probably only get about 20 percent of your daily vitamin D requirement from the foods you eat. So where can you get the other 80 percent of vitamin D? Unlike calcium, your body actually makes vitamin D by itself when exposed to sunlight. Only 10 minutes in the sun each day helps your body make the amount of vitamin D it needs to absorb calcium and stay healthy. So go soak up the sun and know you’re feeding your body vitamin D in the process!
If you’re wondering how much calcium your body needs each day, here are some guidelines.
What does this look like? One cup of milk provides 300 mg of calcium, or approximately 30 percent of your daily requirement.
When it comes to vitamin D, here’s what you need.
A 6-ounce serving of salmon provides more than 600 IU of vitamin D, which is more than your daily requirement!
If you’re at risk for developing osteoporosis, your doctor may recommend you get more calcium and vitamin D by eating certain foods or by taking supplements.
Keep in mind, more isn’t necessarily better when it comes to calcium and vitamin D. In fact, too much of either can be dangerous for your health, putting you at risk for kidney stones, constipation, prostate cancer, calcium deposits in your blood vessels, and trouble absorbing other vital minerals. Adults ages 19 to 50 should limit calcium intake to less than 2,500 mg a day and adults over age 51 should stay below 2,000 mg a day. As far as vitamin D goes, as long as you stay below 4,000 IU a day, you should be fine.