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.
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|
|Pregnant or lactating women 18+||1000 mg|
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.
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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 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.
Osteoporosis Canada recommends the following intake of vitamin D (total intake through diet and supplementation) on a daily basis:
|Age||Vitamin D Requirement*|
|19-50||400 - 1000 IU|
|50+||800 - 2000 IU|
|Pregnant or lactating women 18+||400 IU|
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 AND MILK PRODUCTS|
|Milk—2%, 1%, skim, chocolate||1 cup / 250 ml||300 mg|
|Buttermilk||1 cup/250 ml||285 mg|
|Cheese—Mozzarella||1 1/4''/3 cm cube||200 mg|
|Cheese—Cheddar, Edam, Gouda||1 1/4''/3 cm cube||245 mg|
|Yogurt—plain||3/4 cup/185 ml||295 mg|
|Milk—powder, dry||1/3 cup/75 ml||270 mg|
|Ice cream||1/2 cup/125 ml||80 mg|
|Cottage cheese—2%, 1%||1/2 cup/125 ml||75 mg|
|FISH AND ALTERNATIVES|
|Sardines, with bones||1/2 can/55 g||200mg|
|Salmon, with bones—canned||1/2 can/105 g||240 mg|
|Fortified rice or soy beverage||1 cup/250 ml||300 mg|
|Fortified orange juice||1 cup/250 ml||300 mg|
|Molasses, blackstrap||1 tbsp./15 ml||180 mg|
|Sesame seeds||1/2 cup/125 ml||95 mg|
|Beans, baked||1/2 cup/125 ml||75 mg|
|Beans (kidney, lima) — cooked||1 cup/250 ml||50 mg|
|Soybeans—cooked||1 cup/250 ml||170 mg|
|Taco||1 small||221 mg|
|Tofu—with calcium sulfate||3 oz./84 g||130 mg|
|BREADS AND CEREALS|
|Muffin—bran (homemade with milk)||1 medium||84 mg|
|Bread—whole wheat||2 slices||40 mg|
|Instant oatmeal, calcium added||1 pouch/32 g||150 mg|
|FRUITS AND VEGETABLES|
|Broccoli—cooked||3/4 cup/185 ml||50 mg|
|Orange||1 medium||50 mg|
|Banana||1 medium||10 mg|
|Bok Choy||1/2 cup/125 ml||75 mg|
|Figs - dried||10||150 mg|
For comparison, one cup of milk contains 315 mg of calcium.
|Non-dairy foods||Serving Size||Calcium*|
|Almonds||1/4 cup||103 mg|
|Baked beans - canned||1 cup||154 mg|
|Black—eyed peas||1 cup, boiled||211 mg|
|Blackstrap molasses||1 Tbsp||172 mg|
|Bok choy, cooked||1/2 cup||84 mg|
|Broccoli, cooked||3 spears||51 mg|
|Calcium—fortified orange juice||6 oz||200 mg|
|Chinese cabbage, raw||1 cup||74 mg|
|Collard greens, boiled||1 cup||357 mg|
|Figs, dried||5 medium||90 mg|
|Firm tofu - made with calcium sulfate||1/2 cup||204 mg|
|Fortified soy beverage||1 cup||300 mg|
|Fortified soymilk||1 cup||368 mg|
|Kale||1 cup, cooked||94 mg|
|Oranges||1 cup||72 mg|
|Salmon - canned with bones||1/2 cup||181 mg|
|Tropicana® Orange juice with calcium *||1 cup||344 mg|
|White beans - cooked||1 cup||202 mg|
|Vitamin D Content in common foods||Serving Size||IUS
|Cod liver oil||1 Tbsp.||1,360|
|Salmon (sockeye) - cooked||3 oz.||794|
|Mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light to increase vitamin D, 3 ounces (not yet commonly available)||3 oz.||400|
|Mackerel - cooked||3 oz.||388|
|Tuna fish, canned in water, drained||3 oz.||154|
|Milk, nonfat, reduced fat, and whole, vitamin D-fortified||1 cup||115-124|
|Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, (check product labels, as amount of added vitamin D varies)||1 cup||100|
|Yogurt, fortified with 20% of the DV for vitamin D (more heavily fortified yogurts provide more of the DV)||6 oz.||80|
|Margarine, fortified||1 Tbsp.||60|
|Sardines, canned in oil, drained||2 sardines||46|
|Liver, beef - cooked||3.5 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 cup||40|
|Egg (vitamin D is found in yolk)||1 whole egg||25|
|Cheese, Swiss||1 oz.||6|