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Got Calcium and Vitamin D?


Submitted by Madeleine Ranshaw, RD, LD, Hy-Vee, Davenport, IA

Many can relate to carrying multiple things at one time, from children and pets to dry cleaning and groceries (unless, of course, you use Aisles Online). You may find the list of things you’re carrying to be in the double digits. Have you ever tried carrying 206 things all at once? Turns out, you do it every single day; there are 206 bones in the adult human body that help to carry you everywhere you go.

Bone health is important, especially for kids, who are still growing and developing. The body builds a large portion of bone mass during the teen and early twenty years. Most people reach their peak bone mass between ages 25 and 30, after which bone mass begins to decline. Ensuring that kids get enough calcium and vitamin D can help set them up for years to come. As adults, it’s also imperative to get calcium and vitamin D in order to maintain bone strength and prevent bone loss.

Weight-bearing exercises, such as walking, running, yoga, or weight lifting, are one main way to promote bone health (So the plethora of items you’re carrying could be beneficial after all!). Another integral part of keeping your bones healthy includes calcium and vitamin D consumption. Below are answers to a few common questions associated with these.

Why do calcium and vitamin D get paired together?
Vitamin D is required in order for our bodies to be able to absorb calcium and form calcitriol (also known as “active vitamin D”). If you are meeting your calcium needs but not meeting your vitamin D needs, it’s almost as though you are not getting the calcium either. Calcium plays an integral role in metabolism, supporting the body’s skeletal structure and bone strength, muscle contraction, nerve function, blood clotting, helping to regulate heartbeat, and more.

But, don’t I get enough vitamin D from the sun?
While it varies from person to person, this answer is most likely no. Even if you get a lot of sun exposure and are fairly light skinned, vitamin D is blocked by sunscreen, and sunburns can cause breakdown of the vitamin D that your body received. Also, it’s extremely difficult to quantify vitamin D received from the sun. Because of all this, it’s best to get vitamin D in your diet.

So how much should I get from food?
Aim for two to three servings of dairy products (or dairy alternatives, such as soy milk) for sources of calcium and vitamin D.

If you’re opting for a source other than dairy products, almond milk, or soy milk, you will want to look into the amounts offered to make sure that you’re getting 1,000 mg/day of calcium if you’re under 50. For females over the age of 50 or males over the age of 70, aim for 1,200 mg/day.

What are the best sources of calcium?
Calcium is offered in dairy milk, soy milk, almond milk, cottage cheese, and yogurt. You can also find some in cheeses (though in lesser amounts than most dairy products).

What if I don’t eat dairy or dairy alternatives?
Other choices for calcium include salmon, almonds, broccoli, and hummus (or garbanzo beans in general).

What are some examples of vitamin D sources?
A few examples of vitamin D sources include fortified milk, fortified orange juice (check the label!), canned tuna, and canned salmon.
Hopefully, this information helps you keep your 206 bones healthy. Best wishes to you in all the other things you’re carrying around.

The information is not intended as medical advice. Please consult a medical professional for individual advice. Hy-Vee is located at 2200 West Kimberly Road, Davenport, IA 52804. Madeleine Ranshaw, Registered Dietician, can be reached at 563-391-0213.

Photo credit: Christopher Futcher/iStock