Nutrition for Strong Bones

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Food NameVitamin DCalcium
Butter, salted1.524
Butter, whipped, with salt1.524
Butter oil, anhydrous1.84
Cheese, blue0.5528
Cheese, brick0.5674
Cheese, brie0.5184
Cheese, camembert0.4388
Cheese, cheddar0.6721
Cheese, colby0.6685
Cheese, cottage, creamed, large or small curd0.183
Cheese, cottage, creamed, with fruit0.053
Cheese, cottage, nonfat, uncreamed, dry, large or small curd0.086
Cheese, cottage, lowfat, 2% milkfat0.091
Cheese, cottage, lowfat, 1% milkfat0.061

Usage Note

  • Vitamin D value is in mcg and calculated per 100g of food weight.
  • Calcium value is in mg and calculated per 100g of food weight.
  • This database has vitamin D content for approximately 4,600 foods.
  • Click on column header to sort foods by name or by Vitamin D or Calcium content.
  • Foods rich in both calcium and vitamin D are highlighted with green ♥.

Bone Health and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis, a disorder characterized by porous and fragile bones, is a serious public health problem for more than 10 million U.S. adults, 80% of whom are women. (Another 34 million have osteopenia, or low bone mass, which precedes osteoporosis.) Osteoporosis is most associated with fractures of the hip, vertebrae, wrist, pelvis, ribs, and other bones. An estimated 1.5 million fractures occur each year in the United States due to osteoporosis. Supplementation with calcium plus vitamin D has been shown to be effective in reducing fractures and falls (which can cause fractures) in institutionalized older adults.

Bones increase in size and mass during periods of growth in childhood and adolescence, reaching peak bone mass around age 30. The greater the peak bone mass, the longer one can delay serious bone loss with increasing age. Everyone should therefore consume adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D throughout childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood.


information from the National Institutes of Health

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods, added to others, and available as a dietary supplement. It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis.

Vitamin D can be found in small amounts in a few foods, including fatty fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines and tuna. To make vitamin D more available, it is added to dairy products, juices, and cereals that are then said to be “fortified with vitamin D.” But most vitamin D – 80% to 90% of what the body gets – is obtained through exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D can also be made in the laboratory as medicine.

Vitamin D is used for preventing and treating rickets, a disease that is caused by not having enough vitamin D (vitamin D deficiency). Vitamin D is also used for treating weak bones (osteoporosis), bone pain (osteomalacia), bone loss in people with a condition called hyperparathyroidism, and an inherited disease (osteogenesis imperfecta) in which the bones are especially brittle and easily broken. It is also used for preventing falls and fractures in people at risk for osteoporosis, and preventing low calcium and bone loss (renal osteodystrophy) in people with kidney failure.

Vitamin D is used for conditions of the heart and blood vessels, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. It is also used for diabetes, obesity, muscle weakness, multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, bronchitis, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and tooth and gum disease.

Some people use vitamin D for skin conditions including vitiligo, scleroderma, psoriasis, actinic keratosis, and lupus vulgaris.

It is also used for boosting the immune system, preventing autoimmune diseases, and preventing cancer.

Because vitamin D is involved in regulating the levels of minerals such as phosphorus and calcium, it is used for conditions caused by low levels of phosphorus (familial hypophosphatemia and Fanconi syndrome) and low levels of calcium (hypoparathyroidism and pseudohypoparathyroidism).

Vitamin D in forms known as calcitriol or calcipotriene is applied directly to the skin for a particular type of psoriasis.

If you travel to Canada, you may have noticed that Canada recognizes the importance of vitamin D in the prevention of osteoporosis. It allows this health claim for foods that contain calcium: "A healthy diet with adequate calcium and vitamin D, and regular physical activity, help to achieve strong bones and may reduce the risk of osteoporosis.” But the US version of this osteoporosis health claim does not yet include vitamin D.

Vitamin D Effectiveness

information from the National Institutes of Health

The effectiveness ratings for Vitamin D are as follows:

Effective for

• Treating conditions that cause weak and painful bones (osteomalacia).

• Low levels of phosphate in the blood (familial hypophosphatemia).

• Low levels of phosphate in the blood due to a disease called Fanconi syndrome.

• Psoriasis (with a specialized prescription-only form of vitamin D).

• Low blood calcium levels because of a low parathyroid thyroid hormone levels.

• Helping prevent low calcium and bone loss (renal osteodystrophy) in people with kidney failure.

• Rickets.

Likely effective for

• Treating osteoporosis (weak bones). Taking a specific form of vitamin D called cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) along with calcium seems to help prevent bone loss and bone breaks. Preventing falls in older people. Researchers noticed that people who don’t have enough vitamin D tend to fall more often than other people. They found that taking a vitamin D supplement reduces the risk of falling by up to 22%. Higher doses of vitamin D are more effective than lower doses. One study found that taking 800 IU of vitamin D reduced the risk of falling, but lower doses didn’t.

• Also, vitamin D, in combination with calcium, but not calcium alone, may prevent falls by decreasing body sway and blood pressure. This combination prevents more falls in women than men.

• Reducing bone loss in people taking drugs called corticosteroids.

Possibly effective for

• Reducing the risk of multiple sclerosis (MS). Studies show taking vitamin D seems to reduce women’s risk of getting MS by up to 40%. Taking at least 400 IU per day, the amount typically found in a multivitamin supplement, seems to work the best.

• Preventing cancer. Some research shows that people who take a high-dose vitamin D supplement plus calcium might have a lower chance of developing cancer of any type.

• Weight loss. Women taking calcium plus vitamin D are more likely to lose weight and maintain their weight. But this benefit is mainly in women who didn’t get enough calcium before they started taking supplements.

• Flu. Some research in school aged children show that taking a vitamin D supplement during winter might reduce the chance of getting seasonal flu.

• Reducing the risk of rheumatoid arthritis in older women.

• Reducing bone loss in women with a condition called hyperparathyroidism.

• Preventing tooth loss in the elderly.


Calcium, the most abundant mineral in the body, is found in some foods, added to others, available as a dietary supplement, and present in some medicines (such as antacids). Calcium is required for vascular contraction and vasodilation, muscle function, nerve transmission, intracellular signaling and hormonal secretion, though less than 1% of total body calcium is needed to support these critical metabolic functions. Serum calcium is very tightly regulated and does not fluctuate with changes in dietary intakes; the body uses bone tissue as a reservoir for, and source of calcium, to maintain constant concentrations of calcium in blood, muscle, and intercellular fluids.

The remaining 99% of the body's calcium supply is stored in the bones and teeth where it supports their structure and function. Bone itself undergoes continuous remodeling, with constant resorption and deposition of calcium into new bone. The balance between bone resorption and deposition changes with age. Bone formation exceeds resorption in periods of growth in children and adolescents, whereas in early and middle adulthood both processes are relatively equal. In aging adults, particularly among postmenopausal women, bone breakdown exceeds formation, resulting in bone loss that increases the risk of osteoporosis over time.

When calcium intake is low or ingested calcium is poorly absorbed, bone breakdown occurs as the body uses its stored calcium to maintain normal biological functions. Bone loss also occurs as part of the normal aging process, particularly in postmenopausal women due to decreased amounts of estrogen. Many factors increase the risk of developing osteoporosis, including being female, thin, inactive, or of advanced age; smoking cigarettes; drinking excessive amounts of alcohol; and having a family history of osteoporosis.

Calcium and Vitamin D: Important at Every Age

The foods we eat contain a variety of vitamins, minerals, and other important nutrients that help keep our bodies healthy. Two nutrients in particular, calcium and vitamin D, are needed for strong bones.

The Role of Calcium
Calcium is needed for our heart, muscles, and nerves to function properly and for blood to clot. Inadequate calcium significantly contributes to the development of osteoporosis. Many published studies show that low calcium intake throughout life is associated with low bone mass and high fracture rates. National nutrition surveys have shown that most people are not getting the calcium they need to grow and maintain healthy bones.

Vitamin D
The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Without enough vitamin D, one can’t form enough of the hormone calcitriol (known as the “active vitamin D”). This in turn leads to insufficient calcium absorption from the diet. In this situation, the body must take calcium from its stores in the skeleton, which weakens existing bone and prevents the formation of strong, new bone.

Vitamin D Food Sources

List of foods high in vitamin D. Vitamin D content is in micrograms per 100 grams of food weight.

Foods High in Vitamin D Vitamin D

Fish oil, cod liver 250.0

Mushrooms, maitake, raw 28.1

Fish, halibut, Greenland, raw 27.4

Fish, mackerel, salted 25.2

Fish, carp, raw 24.7

Malted drink mix, chocolate, with added nutrients, powder 23.8

Malted drink mix, natural, with added nutrients, powder 23.5

Fish, eel, mixed species, raw 23.3

Salmon, sockeye, canned, drained solids, without skin and bones 21.5

Fish, salmon, sockeye, canned, drained solids 21.0

Fish, trout, rainbow, farmed, cooked, dry heat 19.0

Salmon, sockeye, canned, total can contents 19.0

Fish, salmon, chinook, smoked 17.1

Fish, swordfish, cooked, dry heat 16.6

Fish, sturgeon, mixed species, smoked 16.1

Fish, mackerel, Atlantic, raw 16.1

Fish, trout, rainbow, farmed, raw 15.9

Steelhead trout, dried, flesh (Shoshone Bannock) 15.7

Steelhead trout, boiled, canned (Alaska Native) 15.1

Fish, salmon, pink, canned, drained solids 14.5

Fish, Salmon, pink, canned, drained solids, without skin and bones 14.1

Fish, swordfish, raw 13.9

Fish, salmon, pink, canned, total can contents 13.7

Fish, cisco, smoked 13.3

Mushrooms, portabella, exposed to ultraviolet light, grilled 13.1

Fish, salmon, sockeye, cooked, dry heat 13.1

Fish, salmon, pink, cooked, dry heat 13.0

Fish, sturgeon, mixed species, cooked, dry heat 12.9

Fish, whitefish, mixed species, smoked 12.8

Foods High in Vitamin D Vitamin D

Fish, catfish, channel, wild, raw 12.5

Fish, roe, mixed species, raw 12.1

Fish, whitefish, mixed species, raw 12.0

Egg, yolk, dried 11.4

Fish, mackerel, Pacific and jack, mixed species, cooked, dry heat 11.4

Fish, salmon, coho, wild, cooked, dry heat 11.3

Mushrooms, portabella, exposed to ultraviolet light, raw 11.2

Fish, salmon, sockeye, raw 11.0

Fish, pompano, florida, raw 11.0

Milk, dry, nonfat, instant, with added vitamin A and vitamin D 11.0

Milk, dry, nonfat, regular, with added vitamin A and vitamin D 11.0

Fish, salmon, pink, raw 10.9

Margarine-like vegetable-oil spread, stick/tub/bottle, 60% fat, with added vitamin D 10.7

Margarine-like, vegetable oil spread, 60% fat, stick/tub/bottle, without salt, with added vitamin D 10.7

Margarine-like, vegetable oil spread, 60% fat, stick, with salt, with added vitamin D 10.7

Margarine, regular, 80% fat, composite, stick, without salt, with added vitamin D 10.7

Margarine, regular, 80% fat, composite, tub, with salt, with added vitamin D 10.7

Margarine-like, vegetable oil spread, approximately 37% fat, unspecified oils, with salt, with added 10.7

Margarine, regular, 80% fat, composite, stick, with salt, with added vitamin D 10.7

Margarine-like, vegetable oil spread, 60% fat, tub, with salt, with added vitamin D 10.7

Milk, dry, whole, with added vitamin D 10.5

Fish, sturgeon, mixed species, raw 10.3

Fish, snapper, mixed species, raw 10.2

Infant formula, MEAD JOHNSON, ENFAMIL, ENFACARE LIPIL, with iron, powder, with ARA and DHA 9.8

Fish, salmon, chum, canned, drained solids with bone 9.6

Child formula, MEAD JOHNSON, PORTAGEN, with iron, powder, not reconstituted 9.3

Infant formula, ABBOTT NUTRITION, SIMILAC, SENSITIVE, (LACTOSE FREE), powder, with ARA and DHA 9.2

(formerly ROSS)

Fish, mackerel, Pacific and jack, mixed species, raw 9.1

Infant formula, ABBOTT NUTRITION, SIMILAC, NEOSURE, powder, with ARA and DHA (formerly ROSS) 9.0

Fish, salmon, coho, wild, raw 9.0

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