Are You Taking Care Of Your Bones?

Photo by ronnieb courtesy of

Did you know that bones can become so weak that a sneeze can lead to a break? Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become brittle. It can occur in men and women.

We can’t feel our bones weakening, so we need to eat a healthful diet and get weight-bearing exercise (such as walking, hiking, jogging, dancing) to keep our bones strong. Building strong bones begins in childhood. Maintaining our bone strength continues throughout our life.

May, Osteoporosis Awareness Month, is a good time to renew our commitment to protecting our bones.

Bone Builders

Calcium and vitamin D are the main bone-building nutrients. Other vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, potassium and magnesium also help build strong bones. Eat a variety of foods every day to get the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

How Much Calcium and Vitamin D Do You Need?

Find your age and gender on this chart.

Nutrient Age/Gender Amount needed daily
Calcium Women under 50; men 70 and younger 1,000 milligrams (mg)
Women 51 and older; men 71 and older 1,200 mg
Children/teens 9 to 18 1,300 mg
Children 4 to 8 1,000 mg
Children 1 to 3 700 mg
Vitamin D Children and adults ages 1 to 70 600 International Units (IU)
Adults 71 and older 800 IU


Where Do I Get Calcium and Vitamin D?

Nutrition labels show the amount of calcium provided by a serving of the food. Some nutrition labels also show how much vitamin D is present.

Calcium is found in:

  • Yogurt
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Calcium-fortified juices, breads and cereals, soy milk, almond milk, tofu
  • Collard greens
  • Broccoli
  • Kale
  • Figs


Vitamin D is found in:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon
  • Vitamin D-fortified milk
  • Some brands of yogurt*
  • Some types of 100 percent juice*
  • Some types of cereal*

*Read the label on foods to learn whether the food has vitamin D added.

Note: Vitamin D can be made when our skin is exposed to sunlight; during winter months, we may be lacking in vitamin D. According to some research, 10 minutes of sun exposure provides 10,000 International Units of vitamin D. (But, remember to wear sunscreen to protect yourself from skin cancer!)


(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)