The Winter Calcium Challenge

As sunlight and outdoor activity decrease, the risk to your bones rises
November 23, 2020 Updated: November 23, 2020

The winter isn’t a great time for your bones. Add that to the fact that you may not enjoy or even tolerate dairy, and you could fall short on calcium.

Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to get calcium without having to force down milk or yogurt.

You are likely manufacturing far less vitamin D this time of year, a situation likely to continue for the next five or six months as temperatures and sun exposure drop. Vitamin D is essential for absorbing calcium.

Aside from limited sunlight exposure, you’re probably not getting outdoors as much either. And when you are, you’re likely covered up. Not only does that impair vitamin D intake, but inactivity can promote weaker bones.

Dietary restrictions, low vitamin D, and inactivity can all put bone health at risk.

A lack of vitamin D and activity are straightforward problems. Do your best to get up as frequently as possible throughout the day and dedicate at least 30 minutes per day to load-bearing exercise. Supplementing with up to 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day can also help.

But getting 1,000–1,200 milligrams (mg) of calcium per day may present a greater challenge. You don’t necessarily want to be supplementing heavily with calcium. Doing so may increase the risk of acid reflux, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, prostate trouble, and hypercalcemia (high blood levels of calcium).

Finding suitable food options, in this case, is ideal. Some good non-dairy sources of calcium include:

  • Chia seeds (can be mixed into yogurt or oats)
  • Soy milk
  • Almonds
  • Dried figs
  • White beans
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Broccoli

There are other nutritional options, including seasonal items such as butternut squash and sweet potatoes. All of these sources feature relatively small amounts of calcium, but together they can provide a sufficient amount.

Eating calcium-fortified foods and supplementing with small doses (like what you’d get in a standard multivitamin) can help you top off daily totals.

If you can’t eat dairy, these are the foods that should be on your radar. Nature is working against your bones this season, so making sure you’re getting enough calcium, as well as vitamin D and exercise, can help keep bones healthy through the winter.

Mohan Garikiparithi holds a degree in medicine from Osmania University (University of Health Sciences). He practiced clinical medicine for over a decade. During a three-year communications program in Germany, he developed an interest in German medicine (homeopathy) and other alternative systems of medicine. This article was originally published on Bel Marra Health.