Calcium and the “Sunshine” Vitamin D

By: Wendy Wu, R.D., M.S.

vitamin D happy dietitian calcium happy dietitian

Why do we need Calcium?

1) Build and maintain bones and teeth

strong teeth happy dietitian

2) Allows blood to clot so you don’t bleed to death when you get a cut.

3) Transmission of nerve system messages, or communication between your brain and the rest of your body.

neurotransmitters happy dietitian

4) Muscle contraction and relaxation

*ahem* just wanted some eye candyOkay, not really, it’s more like this…


What hinders Calcium absorption?

Jeremy Lin Blocked from taking a shot!

Dietary components that bind calcium and hinder its absorption include oxalic acid and phytic acid.

-Oxalic acid are found in some green leafy vegetables, particularly spinach and rhubarb. This is the reason why your mom tells you not to eat spinach and tofu together.

-Phytic acid is found in nuts, seeds, cocoa, coconut, legumes and grains. Having small amounts of these foods is fine but if you’re diagnosed with a mineral deficiency and you do consume a whole lot of the above foods, I’d suggest some techniques to lower your phytic acid intake.

Too much protein and sodium (salt) in the diet may also increase calcium excretion through the kidneys.

For every cup of coffee (equivalent to 150 mg of caffeine), approximately 5 mg of calcium is excreted in the urine.

…and also excessive alcohol intake. Just to mention a few.

How much calcium do we

1,000 mg a day for adults under 50 years and 1200 mg a day for adults over 51 years

Food Sources:

1 cup calcium fortified breakfast cereal (~150 mg)

cheerios happy dietitian

1 cup (8oz) milk, soy milk, almond milk and rice milk (~300 mg)

almond milk happy dietitian

1 cup (8oz) calcium fortified Tropicana Orange Juice (~350mg).

OJ happy dietitian

(Keep in mind that 1 cup also has 22grams of sugar which is equal to 5.5 sugar packets!)

6oz non-fat Yogurt, fruited (~250 mg)

yogurt happy dietitian

1 cup cooked broccoli (~70 mg)

broccoli happy dietitian

1 cup cooked chinese broccoli aka gai lan (~90 mg)

chinese broccoli happy dietitian

1 cup cooked chinese cabbage aka bok choy (~160 mg)

bok choy happy dietitian
Click on Pic for Recipe from Steamy Kitchen

1 cup small cooked white beans (~130mg)

white beans happy dietitian

1 cup cooked kale (~130mg)

kale happy dietitian

3 oz Vitasoy tofu (~ 100 mg)

tofu happy dietitian
3 oz = size of a deck of cards

2 sardines, canned with bone (~90 mg)

sardines happy dietitian

1 oz canned pink salmon with bone (~80 mg)

salmon happy dietitian
1 oz= size of a golf ball

1 oz non-fat mozzarella cheese (270 mg)

MozzarellaCheese happy dietitian

Include these foods in your meals daily and you’ll get enough calcium! No supplements needed.

Here’s a plan for you:

1 cup + 1 cup milk happy dietitian

+ 6oz yogurt happy dietitian +1 cup OJ happy dietitian= 1050 mg of calcium

That’s all you need for the day. Look how easy, and these food sources are more easily absorbed than supplements. Just saying. =)

Why do we need Vitamin D?

Because we’re not getting enough during the winter

or the fall…

or parts of spring

spring happy dietitian

Vitamin D has many important jobs…

1) Aids in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in the body. Kind of like this:

Kind of like this...

2) Regulates how much calcium remains in our blood

3) Plays a role in the strength of our immune system

4) Helps regulate cell growth

Recent research suggests that vitamin D might also play important roles in the prevention and treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance, asthma, multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, and cancer.

It only takes a few minutes for fair skin, 15 minutes for tanned skin and 20-30 minutes for dark skin out in sun to get enough vitamin D (with no sunscreen) during the sunny months, but what about the months where we feel no sun? You’ll need to get your source elsewhere. From food or travel!

sun happy dietitian

How much Vitamin D do we need?

600 IU for people under 70 years and 800 IU for people over 71 years

1 cup (8oz) fortified milk (98 IU)

1 cup Almond Breeze unsweetened milk (150 IU)

1 cup Rice Dream Enriched Original (150 IU)

1 cup Organic Valley Original Soy Milk (180 IU)

milk happy dietitian

3 oz  Tuna fish, raw (193 IU)

tuna happy dietitian
3 oz = a deck of cards

3 oz Atlantic Mackerel, raw (547 IU)

sushi happy dietitian
3 oz = a deck of cards

1 cup fortified breakfast cereal (37 IU)

cereal happy dietitian

1 Egg Yolk (20 IU)

egg happy dietitian

1 tsp cod liver oil (450 IU)

cod liver oil happy dietitian

3oz Vitamin D fortified Mushrooms= 100% of daily needs

mushrooms happy dietitian mushrooms happy dietitian mushrooms happy dietitian

This post focused mainly on the food sources and primary functions of Calcium and Vitamin D. As you can see, I didn’t get into all the wonderful details about their biochemistry. I’m sure we all know that we NEED this duo. Is anyone in your family diagnosed with osteoporosis? Then make sure you store enough calcium in your bones! Next time you get your blood tested, ask your doctor to include a Vitamin D level. Especially if you’re testing in the winter months. You should know if you’re deficient so you can do something about it!


9 thoughts on “Calcium and the “Sunshine” Vitamin D

  1. Fantastic post!!! We really need to look after our bones. Osteoporosis is a silent disease and prevention is best. Load up with these minerals and look forward to strong bones for life. My fav calcium pairing is sardines with broccoli. I also enjoy lots of omega-3 eggs for a vitamin D boost!

    1. Thanks! My goal for this post was to show people that you can get Vitamin D and Calcium from many food sources. If I convince just one person to try my recommendations then I have succeeded! =)

  2. Love this post! Exactly what Ms Diva said prevention is key. It’s not just milk that’ll get you on your way to strong bones. Team it with a decent resistance training session….pure gold 🙂

  3. Pingback: - Diabetes
  4. Really informative information, love all the pictures, and love you are called the “Happy Dietitian” – so clever!

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