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Getting Enough Calcium and Vitamin D - Topic Overview

Who may not get enough calcium and vitamin D? continued...

Blood tests for vitamin D can check your vitamin D level. But there is no standard normal range used by all laboratories. The U.S. Institute of Medicine recommends a blood level of 20 ng/mL of vitamin D for healthy bones. And most people in the United States and Canada meet this goal.3

Things that reduce how much vitamin D your body makes include:

  • Dark skin, such as many African Americans have.
  • Age, especially if you are older than 65.
  • Digestive problems, such as Crohn's or celiac disease.
  • Liver and kidney disease.

How can you get more calcium and vitamin D?

Calcium is in foods such as milk, cheese, and yogurt. Vegetables like broccoli, kale, and Chinese cabbage have calcium. You can get calcium if you eat the soft edible bones in canned sardines and canned salmon. Foods with added (fortified) calcium include some cereals, juices, soy drinks, and tofu. The food label will show how much calcium was added.

Vitamin D is in foods such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel. These are some of the best foods to eat when you are trying to get more vitamin D. Other foods that have vitamin D, but in small amounts, include cheese, egg yolks, and beef liver. You can also get vitamin D from fortified foods such as milk and some cereals, orange juices, yogurts, margarines, and soy drinks.

Some people who do not get enough calcium and vitamin D may need supplements. Calcium supplements are available as citrate or carbonate. Calcium carbonate is best absorbed when it is taken with food. Calcium citrate can be absorbed well with or without food. Spreading calcium out over the course of the day can reduce stomach upset and helps your body absorb the calcium better. Try not to take more than 500 milligrams (mg) of calcium supplement at a time.

Vitamin D supplements are available as ergocalciferol (D2) and cholecalciferol (D3).

Are there any risks from taking calcium and vitamin D?

It is possible to get too much calcium and vitamin D. Older women who take calcium supplements need to be careful that they do not take too much.

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