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Health Tips

Practical Nutrition: Maximize calcium and vitamin D intake through foods

By 22/05/2013May 23rd, 2017No Comments

Osteoporosis can be linked to diets high in sodium, sodas and caffeine because they hinder the body’s calcium use. Adequate calcium helps prevent bones from becoming thin and porous, which can lead to fractures or broken bones. It’s vital to get enough calcium and vitamin D daily to protect bones from osteoporosis.

While we think of sodium as being an issue for someone with high blood pressure or heart disease, a high-sodium diet causes calcium loss in the urine. So even if we get the recommended amount of calcium daily, it’s not available to protect our bones. Decrease sodium by eating fewer processed foods, canned foods, fast foods and high-sodium seasonings. Substitute them with fresh foods, meals prepared at home, and a liberal use of salt-free herbs and spices.

Sodas, especially colas, contain phosphorus in the form of phosphoric acid. Phosphorus promotes calcium loss, which can weaken bones, especially for those at high risk for osteoporosis. The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recommends consuming no more than five colas per week.

Caffeine interferes with calcium absorption and can lead to bone loss. Limiting caffeine intake to 300 milligrams daily can help protect bones. Caffeine adds up quickly as shown in these caffeine-containing drinks:

Nestea lemon tea: 20 ounces, 28 milligrams

Cola: 12 ounces, 35 milligrams

Red Bull: 8.46 ounces, 80 milligrams

Coffee: home brewed, 8 ounces, 108 milligrams

Starbucks Cappuccino: 16 ounces, 150 milligrams

5-hour ENERGY shots: 2 ounces, 200 milligrams

Protect your bones by getting enough calcium. The NOF recommends 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams of calcium daily. See if you’re getting enough daily by tallying your calcium foods.

300 milligrams: 8 ounces any milk, 8 ounces fruited yogurt, 8 ounces calcium-fortified orange juice, ½ cup tofu, 3 ounces sardines with bones

200 milligrams: 1 ounce hard cheese, 1 serving calcium-fortified cereal

150 milligrams: 3 ounces pink salmon with bones, ½ cup pudding, ½ cup cooked collards

100 milligrams: 1 ounce almonds, ½ cup kale

50 milligrams: ½ cup cottage cheese, ½ cup broccoli, 1 corn tortilla, 1 orange

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium to protect your bones. A minimum of 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D daily for adults age 50 and older is recommended by NOF. Food sources are limited and include 1 egg yolk (25 IU), 8 ounces yogurt (40-80 IU), 1 tablespoon margarine (65 IU), 8 ounces milk (100 IU), 3 ounces salmon (360 IU), and 1 tablespoon cod liver oil (1,360 IU).

You also can make vitamin D from the sun, but it might be blocked by sunscreens.

Strive to get your calcium and vitamin D from foods first as in the Green Mountain Smoothie. But if you can’t reach the recommendations, supplements can help meet your needs.

Mary-Jo Sawyer is a registered dietitian with VCU Medical Center, where she provides outpatient nutrition counseling. If you’d like to submit a recipe to be considered for a makeover in a column, contact her at

Follow her on Facebook at Practical Nutrition, Mary-Jo Sawyer, RD, or on Twitter @MaryJoSawyer.