The most important nutrients for people with osteoporosis are calcium and vitamin D.
Calcium is a key building block for your bones. Vitamin D helps your body to absorb calcium.
How much should you get? It depends, in part, on your age and gender.
For vitamin D:
Some osteoporosis experts recommend 800 to 1,200 IU of vitamin D per day.
To find out how much vitamin D you personally need, consider a blood test for the vitamin (25-hydroxy vitamin D) from your doctor. It measures how much vitamin D is in your body.
Experts think that vitamin D may do more to protect you from osteoporosis than only helping you absorb calcium.
To strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis, you can get calcium and vitamin D from your diet, supplements, or both. It’s best to get these nutrients from food, rather than supplements.
Why? Because it’s easier to remember. You may not take a pill every day, but you eat every day.
Foods also are a more complete source of nutrition than supplements. Milk, yogurt, cheese, and other dairy products have high levels of calcium, and also other key nutrients for bone health, such as phosphorus and protein.
When you read food labels, look for foods and drinks that give you 10% or more of the Daily Value for calcium.
If you’re lactose intolerant or avoid dairy for other reasons, there are lots of other options:
For vitamin D, look for items that are fortified, such as some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and plant-based milks. Certain fish, such as salmon, tuna fish, and sardines, may also be a good source.
If you can’t get enough calcium and vitamin D in your diet, talk to your doctor about whether you need supplements.
Calcium supplements come in several types, including:
As far as your bones are concerned, it doesn’t matter which type you take. The difference is in how you take them.
You should take calcium carbonate supplements with meals, to help your body absorb the most calcium.
If you take calcium citrate instead, you don’t need to take them when you eat.
With either type, your body can only absorb up to 500 milligrams at one time. So you may need to take supplements more than once a day.
Most of these supplements also come in formulas that include a dose of vitamin D. If you get the combination form, you’ll get both nutrients in one pill.