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Calcium and Vitamin D do more than just promote bone health

Grilled salmon and vegetables - Fit-a-licious

As I sit parked on my couch with my foot propped up while I recover from a metatarsal stress fracture, I’ve been receiving standard advice: ice often, take ibuprofen, take complete rest from exercise, and . . . make sure to get enough calcium and vitamin D.

Even though it’s common knowledge that getting enough vitamin D and calcium promote bone health, I didn’t think about that one, because it’s obviously not going to be a miracle cure that will let me start training for my fall marathon as soon as I’d like. But obviously it wouldn’t hurt.

And, turns out that that’s not all these two nutrients are good for. A new study shows that people who get adequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D tend to live longer than those who don’t. Not only do they have a lowered cancer risk, they also have lesser chances of developing hip and spine fractures, in addition to osteoporosis. Getting enough calcium and vitamin D has also shown to slow down postmenopausal weight gain. Even if that’s still far off, why not get a head start on prevention?

In the United States, health officials suggest that most adults get 15 micrograms (or 600 IU) of vitamin D per day. In trials that used calcium, the dose was 1,000 milligrams per day. In general, women are told to get 1,200 milligrams of calcium each day.

While a vitamin is better than nothing, getting your nutrients from actual food sources is definitely preferred. Taking a pill on the side of a burger and fries doesn’t exactly spell out “balance.” Foods rich in calcium in include milk, cheese, yogurt, dark, leafy greens such as spinach and kale, fortified orange juice, fortified cereal, soybeans, sardines, and enriched breads and grains. Excellent sources of vitamin D include salmon, tuna, eggs, milk, mushrooms, and, lastly, sunshine (with SPF, of course!).

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I definitely get plenty of vitamin D from my daily multivitamin, and in addition to getting calcium from the same source, that plus my morning cup of Chobani Greek yogurt still isn’t enough. I suppose it wouldn’t hurt to add an extra glass of milk and perhaps some calcium chews in there.

If you’re an active, as-yet-uninjured athlete like I was, do yourself a favor and make sure your diet is in check with all the right nutrients. You’ll thank yourself in the long run.

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By: Emilia Benton

Emilia Benton received her degree in print journalism with dual minors in Spanish and women’s studies from Hofstra University in New York. After spending two years working for magazines such as Glamour and Fast Company, as well as medical trade publications at Wolters Kluwer Health, she recently moved back to her hometown of Houston, where she currently works as a grant administrator at Baylor College of Medicine. She lives for long distance running (she recently completed her third marathon) and loves traveling, country music and all things ‘80s. Fun fact: She shares her Valentine’s Day birthday with her identical twin sister, Carla.