Foods high in calcium and vitamin D

by Ahsan Sohail
Foods high in calcium and vitamin D

The most common food products can satisfy the human body’s calcium and vitamin D needs. The main thing is to eat foods high in calcium and vitamin D and foods that help absorb these elements.

Calcium and its role in the body.

The calcium is one of the most significant chemical elements for the human body. It forms the structural basis of bones and teeth and is necessary for normal blood clotting, hormone production, and muscle contraction. Lack of calcium leads to problems such as growth failure (in children), osteoporosis, and seizures (in adults).

The body’s requirements for calcium are quite high. So, children under three years old need 600 mg of calcium daily, children from 4 to 10 years old – 800 mg, children from 10 to 13 years old – 1000 mg, adolescents from 13 to 16 years old – 1200 mg, adults from 16 years old – about 1000 mg, pregnant and lactating women – from 1500 to 2000 mg.

Fortunately, even the most common foods can meet the body’s calcium needs. The primary thing is to have a diet rich in calcium.

1.   Nuts, seeds, and beans are high in calcium.

Contrary to popular stereotypes, calcium is not only found in animal products. Moreover, among the foods in the diet of many people, those of plant origin are clearly in the lead in terms of calcium content!

So, 100 g of poppy seeds hold almost 1.5 g of calcium (in contrast: milk contains 120 mg of calcium per 100 ml of product). Sesame seeds have 800mg/100g, beans – 200mg/100g and almonds 250mg/100g.

Of course, it will not be possible to satisfy the body’s calcium needs solely at the expense of these products, but they will become a valuable supplement to the diet. They will significantly increase the intake of calcium into the body from food.

2.   Greens, rose hips – and calcium!

A rational amount of calcium is also present in foods such as young nettle (713mg/100g), watercress (214mg/100g), and rose hips (257mg/100g).

Of course, we hardly consume these products more than, for example, beans, but we should not forget that “man does not live by calcium alone”! In any case, fresh herbs and rosehip decoction will become a very valuable addition to the diet during the period of winter-spring beriberi. After all, they can replenish the calcium reserves in the body and improve the assimilation of this valuable element.

3.   Calcium in milk and fermented milk products.

Milk and fermented milk products are the body’s main sources of natural calcium intake. And although in terms of calcium content, milk is far from the TOP of calcium-containing products, everyone can consume dairy products without any restriction.

The question of which dairy products have more calcium. Fresh milk or cottage cheese and cheeses deserve a separate mention.

The integrity is that the “lion’s share” of calcium is in milk whey. Therefore, if cottage cheese is made from pure milk, there is slightly less calcium than in the original product – on average, 80mg per 100g.

However, in the industrial production of curd, calcium chloride can be added to milk to speed up the curdling process. Therefore, the “store” cottage cheese is somewhat richer in calcium than the “market” one. The similarity is factual for hard cheeses.

4.   Calcium in meat products and fish.

Contrary to popular stereotypes, meat products are poor in calcium. In the body of animals and birds, most of the calcium is in the blood plasma and not inside the cells. Therefore, meat covers a very small amount of calcium (less than 50 mg/100g).

Fish and seafood are also poor in calcium. The only exception is sardine (300 mg/100g).

5.   Calcium in foods like grains and vegetables.

Cereals and vegetables are usually low in calcium. Bran bread (or whole meal), whole grains and most vegetables contain nearly the same amount of calcium as meat – up to 50 mg/100g.

However, a large amount of these ingredients in our diet helps compensate for their low calcium content in food.

Calcium in Foods: Bioavailability Issues.

As it trails from the above, it is not at all difficult to devise a diet rich in calcium and, at the same time, secure in calories and nutrients.

But then again, there is this question of calcium bioavailability – that is, the capability of our body to integrate this element. Therefore, we must combine foods rich in calcium with foods that contain a significant amount of vitamin D (this vitamin is present in butter, dairy products, egg yolk, and fatty fish) and ascorbic acid (the main source of its intake in the body is vegetables).

In addition, for bone tissue to absorb calcium, the body must receive enough magnesium (there is a lot of it in bran, whole meal bread, and nuts) and phosphorus salts (found in fish). Otherwise, calcium will simply excrete in the urine or get deposited in the joints and kidneys, forming “kidney stones,” also known as calcifications.

Remember that all diuretics increase the excretion of calcium. Therefore, excessive consumption of alcoholic and caffeine-containing beverages, which have a diuretic effect, will negatively affect calcium absorption from foods.

Calcium in foods and hypercalcemia.

Everything is good in moderation. Including calcium intake! An excess of this element can cause the so-called hypercalcemia, which leads to the appearance of stones (calculi) in the kidneys and bladder, blood clotting disorders, and the weakening of the immune system.

However, a healthy body has perfect mechanisms for controlling calcium absorption. Therefore, even in the case when natural foods contain excessive amounts of calcium, this usually does not harm the body. Excess calcium is simply not absorbed!

But be very careful in the use of calcium medications. Reception without medical indications and consultation with a doctor can lead to unpleasant consequences.

What foods contain vitamin D? Ranking of the main sources.

Vitamin D is a group of nutrients, the most famous of which are cholecalciferol (vitamin D3) and ergocalciferol (vitamin D2). The body produces the first under the influence of ultraviolet radiation and also comes with food. The second is found only in food.

Considering that the majority of the European population is in the zone of low insolation, replenishing the “solar” vitamin through food becomes relevant. Everyone knows that there is much vitamin D in foods containing fish oil, but it can also be found in mushrooms, eggs, meat, dairy, and plant foods.

Here we will consider which foods contain vitamin D for their introduction into the diet and make a list of champions in its content.

Benefits for the body.

The chief role of vitamin D is to participate in the exchange of phosphorus and calcium. It ensures the normal growth of bone tissue, prevents the occurrence of rickets and osteoporosis, and is responsible for the strength of teeth and nails.

Recent studies have shown its significant effect on the functioning of the immune system and increasing the protective properties of the body, which is especially important during the period of colds and viral diseases.

Calciferol improves cognitive functions, helps with nervous and psychological disorders, eases the course of autoimmune diseases (psoriasis), and inhibits the growth of cancer cells.

What foods have the most vitamin D?

Research shows that ultraviolet radiation synthesizes approximately 90% of vitamin D in the skin. Unfortunately, not everyone can sunbathe the whole summer in order to accumulate enough of it, and doctors warn about the dangers of prolonged exposure to the sun due to the risk of skin cancer.

Thus, two options remain to prevent deficiency of the “sunshine” vitamin: introducing foods rich in this nutrient into the diet or taking dietary supplements in various forms. So let’s take a look at which foods contain the most vitamin D.

1.   Fish fat.

Since childhood, fish oil, known and unloved by many, contains the largest amount of vitamins D2 and D3: 100 g of the product contains 250 μg or 2500% of the daily value, and a teaspoon (5ml) of cod liver oil contains 56%.

In addition, this product is one of the best sources of retinol, a growth vitamin for children, and omega-3 fatty acids, an important nutrient for heart, vascular, and brain health.

Fish oil is available in the market in various formulations, as well as with various flavors and aromas. However, large amounts of fish oil are not recommended due to the high toxicity of vitamin A.

2.   Fatty fish.

Fish is among the top vitamin D-rich foods, with salmon ranked first. The amount of D2 and D3 depends on the animals’ habitat. The concentration in the wild is much higher than in the cultured one. Thus, a 100-gram piece of fish caught in natural conditions contains 247% of the daily requirement, and in the “farmer’s” – only 32%.

What other fish have the most vitamin D? Interestingly, the most common herring, sardines, and mackerel are excellent sources, regardless of the cooking option.

In 100g of fresh Atlantic herring, “solar” vitamin 1600 IU, which is almost four times higher than the daily requirement, in canned fish, 22%, and pickled fish, 14%.

Calciferol is present in large quantities in other varieties of fatty fish: chum salmon, pink salmon, halibut, as well as in canned tuna.

The disadvantage of canned fish is the presence of sodium and harmful toxin methylmercury, which limits their use.

Oysters are rich in vitamin D from seafood. This gourmet food contains very few calories but many important nutrients, including up to 80% of the daily value of calciferol in just two shellfish.

3.   Forest mushrooms.

For those who do not love fish, the generous nature offers an alternative option – forest mushrooms, which are an outstanding source of vitamin D.

It is interesting that we, as humans, are able to synthesize a micronutrient under the influence of sunlight, but unlike us, mushrooms produce less effective calciferol (vitamin D2) under sunlight.

Some species of forest mushrooms contain up to 2300 IU per 100 grams, which is almost three times the daily value. Commercial mushrooms grown in the dark contain very little of this nutrient, but when exposed to UV light, they can provide up to 450 IU of vitamin D2 per 100 grams.

4.   Whole eggs.

Eggs are a prodigious source of vitamin D3. One egg yolk contains 37 IU, or 5% of the daily value. At the same time, the amount directly depends on the chicken’s exposure to the sun and the vitamin content in the chicken feed. By analogy with mushrooms, indoor laying hens, walking in the wild, produce eggs with a 3-4 times higher vitamin D than those grown in confined and enclosed spaces.

5.   Herbal products.

Despite the fact that vegetables and fruits contain almost no calciferol, some manufacturers produce juices fortified with this micronutrient. These foods are especially suitable for people who are lactose intolerant or allergic to milk. For example, a glass of fortified orange juice may contain 100 IU of ergocalciferol or 12% of the DV.

Vitamin D can also be found in other plant foods such as fortified cereals, soy, almond, coconut, or rice milk.

Half a cup of fortified oatmeal provides up to 17% of your daily micronutrient intake, 100 g of fortified tofu provides 13%, and a cup of soy milk provides up to 30%, which is a good way to increase your daily intake. Potatoes, parsley, and some herbs such as alfalfa, dandelion, nettle, and horsetail contain small amounts of vitamin D.

Dietary supplements.

Vitamin D can be attained in three ways: by insolation, food sources, and dietary supplements. The latter option is convenient and affordable. Therefore, it is a very popular way to prevent “solar” vitamin deficiency.

Vitamin D comes in different dosages and forms:

  • Oil
  • Water
  • Fish oil in dark glass or capsules
  • Medicinal solutions
  • Chewable tablets
  • Regular pills

The fat-soluble (oily) form is very popular for many vitamins, in which the active ingredient is dissolved in oil. However, the bioavailability of such vitamin D directly depends on the state of the gastrointestinal tract of the person who takes it. For example, chronic pancreatic disease significantly reduces the absorption of the micronutrient.

An alternative to the oil form is the water form. It is a ready-made micellar vitamin D solution that easily absorbs in the intestine and is preferable in terms of resource and energy consumption.

Causes of deficiency and daily intake of vitamin D.

Various studies show the answer to the question of how long it takes to be in the sun to synthesize a daily dose of vitamin D3 without significant damage to health. It shows that a person can be in the sun for no more than 29 minutes in July. In January, 130 minutes at noon with maximum light and 10% exposed skin, and in October, 30 minutes.

However, it is not enough just to stay in the sun. The rays must fall on the skin’s surface at a certain angle, which is only possible in spring and summer from 12:00 to 16:00. But it is precisely this time that doctors consider the most harmful for sunbathing, fraught with photodermatitis and the risk of skin cancer. The use of sunscreens blocks vitamin D production, which leads to vitamin D deficiency even in summer.

Potential indicators of vitamin D deficiency are:

  • Living in geographical latitudes with a small number of sunny days a year
  • Gas contamination of the surrounding air
  • Deficiency of vitamins in the diet
  • Vegetarianism, veganism, and an unhealthy diet (consumption of fast and convenience foods).
  • Lactose intolerance, or dairy allergy
  • Constant use of sunscreen
  • Overweight
  • Taking pills that lessen the bioavailability of vitamin D
  • Long-term low-fat diets
  • Chronic diseases that reduce the absorption of all vitamins by the body (cholecystitis, cholelithiasis, biliary dyskinesia, kidney and thyroid diseases).

Tests for vitamin D deficiency.

It is possible to determine the deficiency of vitamin D by passing an appropriate blood test: the range of 30-100 ng/ml is considered the norm, a figure below 30 ng/ml indicates its insufficiency, and less than 20 ng/ml indicates a deficiency of the compound. Taking into account the latest scientific data on the significant effect of this nutrient on the body’s susceptibility to viral infections, such knowledge will not be superfluous for every person.

Doctors recommend taking a therapeutic dose to prevent vitamin D deficiency without passing an appropriate test. For children under three years old, today, it is 500 IU, from 3 to 12 years old, 1000 IU, over 12 years old, and for adults, 2000 IU. During viral infections, at the risk of cancer and autoimmune diseases, as well as in the fight against excess weight, the dosage should be higher and determined by the doctor.


Research on the health benefits of vitamin D is ongoing, but in view of the already proven benefits, doctors strongly recommend taking it medicinally or prophylactically with food or supplements. To determine the required dosage, it is preliminarily recommended to pass an appropriate blood test and follow doctors’ recommendations.

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