Calcium and vitamin D are essential for building strong, dense bones when you're young and for keeping them healthy as you age. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding need the same amount of calcium and vitamin D as other women their age. Vitamin D supplements can be taken with or without food and the full amount can be taken at one time. While your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium, you don't need to take vitamin D at the same time as a calcium supplement.
If you need help choosing a vitamin D supplement, ask your healthcare provider to recommend one. Calcium supplements are better absorbed when taken in small doses (500 mg or less) several times during the day. For many people, calcium supplements are better absorbed when taken with food. It's important to check supplement labels to ensure that the product meets United States Pharmacopoeia (USP) standards. To find out how easily you can include more calcium in your diet without adding a lot of fat, see the list of calcium-rich foods selected below.
Vitamin D plays an important role in protecting bones, helping the body absorb calcium and supporting the muscles needed to prevent falls. Many published studies show that low calcium intake throughout life is associated with low bone mass and high rates of fractures. When taking a prescription medication for osteoporosis or low bone mass, it's important to continue to consume enough calcium and vitamin D to prevent further bone loss. An easy way to add calcium to many foods is to add one tablespoon of skimmed milk powder, which contains approximately 50 mg of calcium. The amount of calcium you'll need from a supplement depends on the amount of calcium you get from food.
Remember that a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D is only part of an osteoporosis prevention or treatment program.
Calcium-Rich Foods You Should Include in Your DietWe all know that milk is a great source of calcium, but you'll be surprised by the different foods you can include in your diet to reach the recommended daily amount of calcium. Use the following guide for ideas on other calcium-rich foods to add to your weekly shopping list:
- Fortified orange juice
- Fortified cereals
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, so it's important to make sure you're getting enough of both nutrients from food or supplements. If you're not getting enough from your diet, talk to your doctor about taking a supplement.