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Importance of Calcium and Vitamin D

Essential to Maintaining Bone Health

Calcium and Vitamin D are essential to maintaining bone health. While neither is a cure for osteoporosis, both play a vital role in preventing and treating bone loss.

Recommended Daily Intake

Below is the recommended intake of nutrients associated with bone health for adults, as well as a comprehensive list of foods that can help keep you strong.

Nutrient Adequate Intake or Recommended Dietary Allowance Upper Limit of Safety
Calcium 19-50 years 1,000 mg 2,500 mg
>51 years 1,200 mg 2,500 mg
Vitamin D 19-50 years 5 mcg or 200 IU 50 mcg or 2,000 IU
51-70 10 mcg or 400 IU 50 mcg or 2,000 IU
> 70 years 15 mcg or 600 IU 50 mcg or 2,000 IU
Institute of Medicine, Standing Committee on the Scientific Evaluation of Dietary Reference Intakes, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary reference intakes for calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, vitamin D, and fluoride. Washington, DC: National Academy Press; 1997.

Sources of Calcium and Vitamin D

Although some people think that milk is one of the few ways to obtain your necessary intake of calcium and Vitamin D, there are many other foods that contain adequate amounts of each for healthy bones and teeth.

High-Calcium Foods


Foods that contain approximately 400 mg calcium per serving:

  • 8 oz yogurt without added fruit
  • ½ cup evaporated skim milk
  • ½ cup dry milk powder

Foods that contain approximately 300 mg calcium per serving:

  • 8 oz milk (any kind)
  • 8 oz fruited yogurt
  • 8 oz calcium-fortified orange juice
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 oz Swiss or Gruyere cheese
  • ½ cup calcium-treated tofu
  • 3 oz canned sardines w/ bones
  • 1 calcium-fortified cereal bar

Foods that contain approximately 200 mg calcium per serving:

  • 1 oz natural cheese
  • 1 serving calcium-fortified cereal (may contain up to 1,000 mg calcium)

Foods that contain approximately 150 mg calcium per serving:

  • 1 packet calcium-fortified instant oatmeal
  • ½ cup pudding, custard, flan
  • ½ cup cooked collards
  • 3 oz pink canned salmon w/ bones
  • 2 calcium-fortified graham crackers
  • 1 serving calcium-fortified bread

Foods that contain approximately 100 mg per serving:

  • 1 oz nonfat cream cheese
  • ½ cup turnip greens, bok choy
  • 1 oz almonds
  • ½ cup ice cream, ice milk, frozen yogurt
  • ½ cup white beans

Foods that contain approximately 50 mg per serving:

  • ½ cup broccoli
  • ½ cup kale or mustard greens
  • ½ cup most dried beans
  • ½ cup cottage cheese
  • 1 medium corn tortilla
  • 1 medium orange
  • 1 Tbsp dry milk

Foods with Vitamin D


Vitamin D-fortified foods:

  • Milk 8 oz = 2.5 mcg; 100 IU (international units)
  • Some brands of juice, amount varies
  • Margarine 1 Tbsp = 1.5 mcg; 60 IU
  • Soy milk, varies
  • Yogurt 1 cup 1- 2 mcg; 40 - 80 IU

Foods naturally high in vitamin D:

  • Cod liver oil 1 Tbsp = 34 mcg; 1,360 IU
  • Egg yolks 1 yolk = 0.625 mcg; 25 IU
  • Fatty fish, such as tuna, mackerel, and salmon; 3 to 4 oz = 9 mcg; 360 IU

© 2006 American Dietetic Association. Reprinted with permission.

Contact Information

Carl J. Shapiro Department of Orthopaedics
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
617-667-3940