Build Bone Strength: Foods with Calcium and Vitamin D

Contributing Author | Shield HealthCare
07/10/18  12:31 PM PST

Want to keep your bones strong and healthy? Make sure you get enough of the two most important bone-building nutrients: calcium and vitamin D.

The calcium your body needs for nerve, muscle and hormone balance is mostly stored in your bones and teeth, where it adds structure and hardness. Without adequate calcium, you’re at risk for weak bones and fractures, especially as you age.

In addition to supporting cell growth and immune function and reducing inflammation, vitamin D is responsible for absorbing calcium from food and keeping sufficient levels of calcium and phosphate in your blood and bone. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to soft bones and deformity.

Calcium is found in dairy products, fruits, vegetables and fortified foods. Although you can make some vitamin D with the help of sunlight, many people also need to consume food and supplement sources to prevent deficiency.

Good sources of Calcium

  • Milk and yogurt
    • Frozen yogurt does not contain as much calcium as regular yogurt!
  • Cheese
    • Harder cheeses, such as cheddar, generally contain more calcium than soft, such as cottage cheese.
  • Canned sardines or salmon (with bones)
  • Tofu made with calcium sulfate
  • Green vegetables
  • Chinese cabbage, kale, collard greens, bok choy and broccoli are good calcium sources.
    • Spinach also contains calcium but it’s not well-absorbed, due to high levels of oxalic acid.
  • Fortified foods (be sure to check the label)
    • Soymilk
    • Orange juice
    • Ready-to-eat cereal

Good Sources of Vitamin D

  • Fish (swordfish, salmon, tuna, sardines)
    • One three-ounce piece of sockeye salmon can provide >100% of the daily vitamin D requirement. If you’re concerned about sustainable seafood, check out Seafood Watch.
  • Eggs
    • Vitamin D is stored in the yolk.
  • Fortified foods (be sure to check the label)
    • Milk and yogurt
    • Soymilk
    • Margarine
    • Orange juice
    • Ready-to-eat cereal

More Tips for Bone Strength:

  • Consume enough protein from plant and/or animal sources, including lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, milk and dairy, beans, peas, nuts, seeds and tofu.
  • Avoid excess protein, which may cause your body to lose calcium.
  • Limit your sodium intake, as excess sodium can also increase excretion of calcium from your body.
  • Be physically active. Sitting for more than 9 hours a day increases your risk of hip fracture by 50% compared to less than 6 hours of sitting (this study looked at women). Weight-bearing exercise, such as walking and strength training make bones stronger.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Those who are overweight or obese are at high risk for vitamin D deficiency.
  • Eat a variety of foods, so you get in other important nutrients, such as:
    • Magnesium from nuts and seeds
    • Vitamin A in egg yolk
    • Vitamin K in green leafy vegetables
    • Zinc in lean meats, poultry and whole grain cereals
  • Limit habits that interfere with bone strength, such as:
    • Cola – it’s thought that the phosphoric acid in cola could contribute to calcium loss from bones.
    • Excess caffeine (more than 400 milligrams per drink) may also contribute to low bone density.
    • Excess alcohol (more than 2 drinks per day) can increase your fracture risk by 40%.
    • Smoking, whether currently or in your past, puts you at greater risk for bone disease and fractures.


Cleveland Clinic Health Essentials

International Osteoporosis Foundation

National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements


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