Ask Esther: Calcium & Vitamin D Intake

Calcium and Vitamin D Intake During Treatment

I am in need of guidance on some good sources of calcium and vitamin d for my dear friend who has just started her first of 16 weeks of chemotherapy. Can you help me with this?

Calcium, an essential mineral, is stored in our bones and provides bones with structure and the ability to function properly. Calcium has many other roles in the body, including muscle contraction, as well as normal nerve function. Bone health is sometimes a concern for people undergoing chemotherapy due to the chemotherapy itself, steroid use, or early menopause. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for calcium is 1000 milligrams (mg) per day for adult men up to the age of 70; then it’s 1200 mg. For women, the RDA is 1000 mg up to age 50, and then 1200 mg. Your health care provider may suggest other dosages depending on your situation.

Some of the best dietary sources for calcium are yogurt, milk, cheese, cottage cheese, and sardines with bones. You may also note that many foods are fortified with calcium, most commonly soy milk, rice milk, almond milk, firm tofu made with calcium sulfate, and ready-to-eat cereals.  The label will tell you how much calcium they contain. Some leafy greens are also decent sources of calcium, especially kale, which contains about 100 mg per 1 cup either cooked or raw.

We need vitamin D to absorb calcium. There are few really good food sources for Vitamin D, as we gain it mostly from exposing our skin to the sun. So, in this case, look for foods that are fortified – milk and other dairy products as well as salmon and herring – or talk to your healthcare provider about using a supplement.

Esther Trepal is a retired registered dietitian who spent the majority of her career working with people affected by chronic illnesses; including HIV/AIDS, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.  Through individual counseling as well as community presentations and lectures, Esther’s focus was on maximizing the impact of diet to support the well-being of her clients. She graduated with an MS from Columbia University in New York City in 2001.

Registered Dietitian Approved

Our recipes, articles, and videos are reviewed by our oncology-trained dietitians to ensure that each is backed with scientific evidence and follows the guidelines set by the Oncology Nutrition for Clinical Practice, 2nd Ed., published by the Oncology Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group, a professional interest group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and the American Institute for Cancer Research and the American Cancer Society

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