Calcium and Vitamin D
Why is calcium important to my diet?
Eating a balanced diet with enough calcium and vitamin D is a key step in the
How much calcium do I need?
This depends on many factors, such as, age, gender, drugs, and bone mineral
density. For most people, a daily intake between 1000 and 1500 mg of calcium
is both safe and potent. Minimum daily requirements for calcium are:
What foods are rich in calcium?
Dairy products are good sources of calcium. An 8-ounce glass of milk contains about 300 mg of calcium. Two slices of firm cheeses, such as American, Swiss,
cheddar or mozzarella have about as much calcium as a glass of milk. Softer
cheeses, like cottage cheese, most often contain 1/3 to 1/2 this amount of calcium per serving. Other calcium-rich foods are yogurt, salmon, tofu, almonds
(100 mg in a 2-ounce serving), and beans. Also, many foods such as orange juice and soy milk come in calcium fortified forms. The average American daily
diet contains about 200 mg of calcium in non-dairy food
Vegetables / Fruit
skim, 1 oz Ricotta cheese, part-skim, 168
What do I need to know about calcium supplements?
If you are not able to get your daily calcium requirements from dairy products
and other foods, calcium supplements are a safe and potent way to get enough calcium. Here are a few tips for choosing a calcium supplement.
x The amount of calcium in supplements varies from 200 mg to 600 mg,
x Read the label - a supplement 'serving' may contain 400 mg of calcium,
x Research suggests that calcium supplements are best absorbed when
taken in doses of 500 mg of calcium or less. For this reason, your calcium supplementation should most often be split over the course of the day.
x Most often, chewable tablets are absorbed better than pills that are
x If you use a non-chewable pill, you can check if it can dissolve well: place
the pill in a glass of warm water for 30 minutes and then stir; if the pill dissolves in the water, it should also dissolve in your stomach.
x Some people taking calcium supplements are concerned about lead
content. The FDA maximum for lead intake is 6.0 mcg/day. Lead-free
calcium supplements include Tums, Walgreen's, Equate, Nature Made, Sundown (all calcium carbonate) as well as Citracal (calcium citrate). Two
well-known calcium supplements that contain lead are, Caltrate (3.43
mcg/day) and OsCal (1.74 mcg/day). These amounts assume an intake of 1500 mg of calcium per day.
Should I be taking calcium carbonate or calcium citrate?
x In general, calcium carbonate costs less, and is just as effective.
x Calcium carbonate is best absorbed when taken with meals. Calcium
x If constipation is an issue, calcium citrate (Citracal) may be a better
x Most experts suggest that patients taking drugs that block stomach acid
(this includes medications such as Zantac, Pepcid, Prilosec, or Protonix,
but these are not all of the drugs) take calcium citrate rather than
Vitamin D How much vitamin D do I need?
If you have been told to take a vitamin D supplement, a dose between 800-1000
International Units (IU) per day is safe and potent. Older patients should take
the 800-1000 IU/day dose. Almost all multivitamins contain 400 IU/day. Also, many vitamin D supplements can be bought at most drug stores, food stores,
and health food stores. Many calcium supplements also contain vitamin D in
Can I get my vitamin D requirements from foods?
Very few foods are naturally rich in vitamin D. Milk is most often fortified with
125 IU of vitamin D per glass. There is also some vitamin D in eggs, organ meats, and fish such as salmon, sardines, and herring. Vitamin D is also
manufactured in the skin right after direct exposure to sunlight. Sunlight
exposure to the hands, face and arms for as little as 10-30 minutes, 2-3 times per week is helpful to produce vitamin D during the summer months.
Disclaimer: This document is for informational purposes only and is not
intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician
or other professional medical services. Talk with your doctor if you have
Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options.
2011 The Regents of the University of Michigan
Patient Education Handout associated with UMHS Clinical Care Guideline
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