Nutrition and Osteoporosis: Getting Down to the Basics

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: May 26, 2010

The following article is brought to you by our February sponsor, Reclast.

Certain people are more likely to develop osteoporosis than others. Factors that increase the likelihood of developing osteoporosis and broken bones are called “risk factors.”1 To evaluate your personal risk, you can visit and take a five-minute assessment to see if you are in fact at risk for postmenopausal osteoporosis. You can also hear what international health and fitness expert, Dr. Pam Peeke, has to say about keeping your bones strong and healthy.

While you have no control over some of these risk factors, like family history, age, and gender, there are others you can change. Many of the choices you make each day can affect your bones. By making healthier choices you can help to reduce your risk of osteoporosis as well as the painful fractures it can cause.

Calcium is the building block of bone4

When it comes to building strong bones, calcium is number one. Women under 50 need approximately 1,000 mg of calcium to keep their bones strong, and those who are 50+ need approximately 1,200 mg.4

Some good sources of calcium include:4

  • Dairy products (low fat or non-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese)
  • Calcium-enriched products, such as certain cereals and juices
  • Broccoli, leafy green vegetables, and almonds

Calcium Concentration


Portion Per Person

70 -90+ mg


1 oz

Bok Choy

½ cup

Sesame seeds

1 tbsp.

Kale (boiled, frozen)

½ cup


1 cup

175-200+ mg


English muffins (whole wheat)

1 muffin

Collards (cooked)

½ cup

Low-fat cheese (such as part-skim mozzarella or American)

1 oz


½ cup

250+ mg


Soy beverage with added calcium

1 cup

Fat-free or low-fat milk

1 cup

Calcium-enriched orange juice

1 cup

Ricotta cheese (part skim)

½ cup

Yogurt (fat-free or low-fat)

1 cup

If you don’t think you are getting enough calcium from food, consider taking a multivitamin or a calcium supplement.4 Check out the chart for a list of calcium-rich foods. If you are interested in learning more about easy calcium-rich recipes that taste great, you can visit to obtain recipes.

Let the sun shine in: Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium4

For most people age 50 and older, it is recommended that you get between 800 and 1,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D. People under 50 should get between 400 and 800 IU.4

For many people, sunlight is the main source of vitamin D.4 Ten to fifteen minutes of sun exposure at least two times per week to the face, arms, hands, or back without sunscreen is usually sufficient to provide adequate vitamin D. However, since sun exposure can increase your risk for skin cancer, it is important to consider other good sources.4 Check out the chart for a list of foods loaded with vitamin D.

Vitamin D Concentration

Foods 3

Portion Per Person

1,360 IU

Cod liver oil

1 tbsp

360 IU

Salmon (cooked)

3½ ounces

345 IU

Mackerel (cooked)

3½ ounces

200 IU

Tuna fish (canned in oil)

3 ounces

250 IU

Sardines (canned in oil)

1¾ ounces

98 IU

Milk (nonfat, reduced fat, and whole, vitamin D fortified)

1 cup

60 IU

Margarine (fortified)

1 tbsp

50 IU

Pudding (prepared from mix and made with vitamin D fortified milk)

½ cup

40 IU

Ready-to-eat cereals (fortified with vitamin D)

¾ cup to 1 cup

20 IU


1 whole

15 IU

Liver/beef (cooked)

3½ oz

12 IU

Swiss cheese

1 oz

If you don’t get enough vitamin D from food, consider taking a multivitamin or a vitamin D supplement. Also, look for a calcium supplement that contains vitamin D.4 Be sure to speak with your doctor before you begin any new diet or vitamin regimen.

Stay tuned for our next issue to learn how exercise plays a vital role in keeping your bones strong. In the meantime, visit to take a short osteoporosis risk assessment and to learn about local osteoporosis education events in your area.


1 Center for Disease Control. Shopping for Foods with Calcium. 2001.

2 National Institute of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. February 2008.

3 National Institute of Health. Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. February 2008.

4 National Osteoporosis Foundation. Bone Tool Kit. 2007.