Strong Bones and Healthy Nutrition

It’s easy to lose track of your calcium intake. The Greenwich Hospital is here to help with a number of tips for measuring your calcium and vitamin D intake to insure strong, healthy bones.

How Do I Maintain Strong Bones?
Eating foods rich in calcium and vitamin D are both needed to maintain strong bones.

What is Calcium?
Calcium is an important mineral that helps keep bones strong. Your body needs a certain amount of calcium every day. If you do not eat enough calcium, your bones may become weak and break more easily.

How Much Calcium Do I Need?
The amount of calcium you need every day depends upon your age and stage of life.

Children 0-6 months need 500 mg/day
Children 7-12 months need 500 mg/day
Children 1-3 years need 500 mg/day
Children 4-8 years need 800 mg/day
Children 9-18 years need 1300 mg/day
Adults 19-50 years need 1000 mg/day
Adults 51+ years need 1200 mg/day

Pregnancy and Lactation
under 18 years need 1300 mg/day
over 19 years need 1000 mg/day

What Foods are Good Sources of Calcium?

Calcium is found in many foods. Dairy products like milk, cheese, or yogurt are excellent sources but some vegetables, nuts, and fish are good sources. A Registered Dietitian (R.D.) can help you select foods to meet your calcium needs.

Dairy Foods

Milk (whole, low fat, skim)
8 oz
300 mg

Cottage cheese
1 cup
155 mg

Mozzarella cheese (part skim)
1 oz

8 oz

Cheddar cheese
1 oz

American cheese
1 oz

Ricotta cheese
1/2 cup

Non Dairy Foods

Orange juice (calcium fortified)
8 oz

Soy milk (calcium fortified)
8 oz

1/2 cup

Collard greens (cooked)
1 cup

Sardines (canned, with bones)
3 oz

Black beans (cooked)
1 cup

How Can I Increase Calcium in My Diet?
Choose at least 2-3 servings of low fat dairy foods such as milk, cheese, or yogurt each day
Limit sodium and caffeine intake because excessive amounts can increase calcium excretion
Limit foods high in oxalic acid such as spinach, rhubarb, chard, beet greens, and sweet potatoes because they can block calcium absorption. Consume calcium-rich foods throughout the day instead of all at once because your body can best handle about 500 mg at a time.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a hormone that helps the intestinal tract to absorb calcium and helps to maintain normal blood levels of calcium. By doing this, vitamin D helps form and maintain strong bones.

How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
The amount of Vitamin D you need every day depends on your age and stage of life.

Children 0-18 years need 200 IU/Day
Adults 19-50 years need 400 – 800 IU/Day
Adults 51+ years need 800 – 1000 IU/Day

Pregnancy and Lactation:
under 18 years need 200 IU/Day
over 19 years need 200 IU/Day

What Foods Are Good Sources of Vitamin D?
Vitamin D can be found in foods such as fatty fishes, fortified dairy products, and fortified cereals.

Dairy Foods

Milk (whole, low fat, skim); fortified
8 oz
98 IU

Swiss Cheese
1 oz
12 IU

Mozzarella cheese (part skim)
1 oz
200 IU

Non Dairy Foods

Cod liver oil
1 Tbsp
1350 IU

Salmon (cooked)
3 1/2 oz
360 IU

Mackerel (cooked)
3 1/2 oz
90 IU

Sardines (canned)
1 3/4 oz
70 IU

Egg Yolk
20 IU

Beef Liver (cooked)
3 1/2 oz
15 IU

Adequate intake of calcium and vitamin D throughout a lifetime will promote strong bones. Some individuals may not be able to meet their calcium and vitamin D needs through foods. When this is the case, supplements of calcium with vitamin D can supply the daily need for these nutrients. Discuss with your doctor the supplement type and dose that you should take.

For more Patient Education Fact Sheets, see the Greenwich Hospital web site at and click on Patients & Visitors, then Patient Education

Greenwich Hospital is a 174-bed community hospital, serving lower Fairfield County Connecticut and Westchester County New York. It is a major academic affiliate of Yale University School of Medicine and a member of the Yale New Haven Health System.

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