Calcium, vitamin D are essential nutrients for health

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Calcium and vitamin D are both essential nutrients when it comes to bone health. Although most people link calcium to strong bones, vitamin D sometimes gets overlooked. Research has shown that vitamin D plays an important role, along with calcium, when it comes to your bones. The stronger your bones are at age 30, the more you will have "invested" in your "calcium bank account" as you get older. To maintain strong bones and get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet, stay active - exercise and get 15 minutes of sunlight several times a week.

Building strong bones is a lot like building a healthy balance in your "calcium bank account." Bones are living tissues and constantly in a state of turnover, making calcium deposits and withdrawals daily. Vitamin D is also essential for strong bones. Your body needs it for optimum bone strength and to help absorb calcium. However, most people are not getting enough of either of these nutrients. As you know, bones don't come with a lifetime guarantee. They need continuing maintenance, or they can weaken and break. If your diet is low in calcium, your body will take calcium from your bones to keep blood calcium at normal levels. For a lifetime of healthy bones:

  •  Consume 3 servings of low-fat or fat-free milk or other dairy products every day.
  •  Supplement your diet with calcium from calcium-fortified foods and beverages, if you don't or can't consume milk.
  •  Use your Food Guide Pyramid to help with your healthy eating.
  •  Be physically active and do exercise such as walking, running or weight training.

Focus on food first - it is the primary source of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D. Dairy products, fortified cereals and calcium-fortified orange juice are good sources of calcium and vitamin D.

Are all sources of calcium absorbed efficiently? Calcium is absorbed best if your intake of calcium-rich foods is spread out during the day.

For all sources of calcium, adequate vitamin D from food or sunlight is necessary to help the absorption. The calcium in milk products is very well absorbed, as is the calcium citrate malate. Because calcium citrate malate is a patented calcium source, it is found in only certain fruit juices. Keep in mind that calcium intake should not exceed 2,500 milligrams per day.

Here are some more tips for bone health:

  •  Do some exercises daily - like walking, running, dancing and weight training.
  •  Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol intake.
  •  Ask your physician if you need a bone density test based on your risk factors for osteoporosis or if you are a woman over age 50.
  •  Read food labels, and look for foods and beverages that provide calcium and vitamin D.
  •  Choose a calcium and vitamin D supplement - if you need it.

Some sources of calcium and vitamin D are: milk, low fat or non-fat, 1 cup; calcium and vitamin D-fortified orange juice, 1 cup; fruit yogurt, low fat, 1 cup; cheddar cheese, low fat, 2 ounces; and salmon, pink, canned with bones, 3 ounces.

The other best sources of calcium are milk, cheese, yogurt and other milk products. Fish with tiny bones you eat, such as sardines, are rich sources, too. Dark green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli, also provide some calcium.