Getting the calcium and vitamin D you need is easier than you think — if you eat the right foods.
By Rebecca Buffum Taylor
WebMD Feature Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD
If you’ve been diagnosed with osteoporosis you know you need to lots of vital nutrients, like calcium and vitamin D. Turns out breakfast may be the best time to give your bone health a lift. Most of the foods and beverages now fortified with calcium are start-your-day kinds of tastes: Orange juice. Milk. Cereal.
Sure, the USDA puts baked herring at the top of the list of calcium-rich food. But who knows a good recipe for that? And instant chocolate pudding is pretty high on the list — but is that really the best nutritional advice if you’re watching your weight?
So to give you a hand at getting the biggest bang for your calcium buck, WebMD put together 12 calcium-rich foods that are easy to add your diet. Try a splash of one and a pinch of another in your meals. And when you’re browsing for new recipes, look for these calcium super-foods as your main ingredient.
Hidden Benefits of Calcium Rich Foods
But wait! Before you start munching your way to stronger bones you need to ask: How much calcium do I need, anyway?
Though experts haven’t yet agreed on the ideal amount for people with osteoporosis, your doctor may advise up to 1,500 milligrams of calcium a day. “With osteoporosis, the general advice is to take three doses of 500 milligrams of elemental calcium a day,” says Paul Mystkowski, MD, an endocrinologist at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle, and clinical faculty member at the University of Washington in Seattle.
Why three separate doses? Because 500 milligrams is all your body can absorb at one time. So for strong bones, get your calcium throughout the day via your meals, then, if necessary, add a calcium supplement to make up the difference.
And remember: Calcium-rich foods do more than build strong bones. Calcium can boost the effects of osteoporosis drugs you may be taking to reduce bone loss, such as estrogen and bisphosphonates. And calcium also amplifies the benefits of weight-bearing exercise in building strong bones.
Breakfasts for Strong Bones
Fortunately, grocery shelves are bursting with calcium-rich foods for breakfast. The amount of calcium can vary wildly from one brand to another, so read food labels closely and compare different brands.
Some cereals, for instance, can give you half of the calcium you need all day. Have a cup of fortified cereal with milk and a glass of calcium-fortified orange juice, and you may satisfy your calcium needs before lunch.
Average Calcium (mg)
Cereal, calcium-fortified, 1 cup
100 – 1000
Soy milk, calcium-fortified, 8 ounces
80 – 500
Milk (nonfat, 2%, whole, or lactose-reduced), 1 cup
Yogurt, 1 cup
300 – 400
Orange juice, calcium-fortified
200 – 340
Even if you’re lactose-intolerant and don’t digest milk well, you can find plenty of dairy products these days that are lactose-reduced or lactose-free. Just check the labels on milk, cheese, and yogurt, and try the health-food store if larger supermarkets don’t carry enough choices.