We’ve all heard that Vitamin D and Calcium are important for our health, and that we can get them from being out in the sun and eating dairy products.
But some scientists argue that protecting yourself from UV Rays is actually bad for your health. While others say, dairy may not be the best source for calcium at all.
So what`s the truth?
Dr. Sonny Saggar is in today on News 11 at noon, to sort it out for us all.
1. Why are Vitamin D and Calcium important?
Getting enough vitamin D and calcium are two of the best things you can do to keep your bones healthy.
These two nutrients work together to make you less likely to break a bone or get osteoporosis, a disease that weakens them and can lead to small and not-so-small fractures.
To protect your bones you do (1) need calcium in your diet, but you also (2) need to keep calcium in your bones.
2. How Much Vitamin D and Calcium Do You Need?
Vitamin D is measured in international units (IU). The Institute of Medicine recommends getting this 600IU vitamin D every day for most adults, with smaller amounts for kids and the elderly:
3. How Can You Get Vitamin D and Calcium?
Unlike a lot of the traditional advice you may get, I`m not a big supporter of calcium from dairy consumption. Dairy products do contain calcium, but this calcium is accompanied by animal proteins, lactose sugar, animal growth factors, occasional drugs and contaminants, and a substantial amount of fat and cholesterol.
The most healthful calcium sources are green leafy vegetables and legumes, or “greens and beans” for short.
Collards, Oatmeal, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Kale, mustard greens and other greens are loaded with highly absorbable calcium and a host of other healthful nutrients. The exception is spinach, which contains a large amount of calcium but tends to hold onto it very tenaciously, so that you will absorb less of it.
Beans are humble foods, and you might not know that they are loaded with calcium. There is more than 100 milligrams of calcium in a plate of baked beans. If you prefer chickpeas, tofu, or other bean or bean products, you will find plenty of calcium there, as well. These foods also contain magnesium, which your body uses along with calcium to build bones.
If you are looking for a very concentrated calcium source, calcium-fortified orange or apple juices contain 300 milligrams or more of calcium per cup in a highly absorbable form.
Although many people think of dairy calcium in the diet as good protection for their bones, this is not completely true. In fact, in a 12-year Harvard study of 78,000 women, those who drank milk three times a day actually broke more bones than women who rarely drank milk.
Similarly, a 1994 study of elderly men and women in Sydney, Australia, showed that higher dairy product consumption was associated with increased fracture risk. Those with the highest dairy product consumption had approximately double the risk of hip fracture compared to those with the lowest consumption.
4. Exercise and stay active, so that calcium has somewhere to go.
Exercise is important for many reasons, including keeping bones strong. Active people tend to keep calcium in their bones, while sedentary people lose calcium.
5. Get vitamin D from the sun or supplements if you need them.
Vitamin D controls your body’s use of calcium. About 15 minutes of sunlight on your skin each day normally produces all the vitamin D you need. If you get little or no sun exposure, you can get vitamin D from most multi-vitamins.
Very small amounts of sun exposure provide all the vitamin D the body can manufacture. Even when you wear sunscreen, some UV reaches the skin, and this may be plenty, at least for fair-skinned individuals. Greater exposure adds nothing to vitamin D stores, while increasing DNA damage in a linear fashion, many dermatologists will argue.
Also, it can be hard to make enough vitamin D from the winter sun, depending on where you live.
If you’re not getting all the vitamin D and calcium you need from food, talk with your doctor about taking a multivitamin or supplements.
6. How to Keep The Calcium from being wasted away.
It’s not enough to get calcium into your bones. What is really critical is keeping it there. Here’s how:
6a. Reduce calcium losses by avoiding excess salt.
Calcium in bones tends to dissolve into the bloodstream, then passes through the kidneys into the urine.
High sodium (salt) in the foods you eat can greatly increase calcium loss through the kidneys. If you reduce your sodium intake to one to two grams per day, you will hold onto calcium better. To do that, avoid salty snack foods and canned goods with added sodium, and keep salt use low on the stove and at the table.
6b. Get your protein from plants, not animal products.
Animal protein, fish, poultry, red meat, eggs, and dairy products tends to leach calcium from the bones and encourages its passage into the urine. Plant protein in beans, grains, and vegetables does not appear to have this effect.
6c. Don’t smoke.
Smokers lose calcium, too. A study of identical twins showed that, if one twin had been a long-term smoker and the other had not, the smoker had more than a 40 percent higher risk of a fracture.
Steroid medications, such as prednisone, are a common cause of bone loss and fractures. If you are receiving steroids, you will want to work with your doctor to minimize the dose and to explore other treatments.
Alcohol can weaken your bones, apparently by reducing the body’s ability to make new bone to replace normal losses. The effect is probably only significant if you have more than two drinks per day of spirits, beer, or wine.
A lower than normal amount of testosterone can encourage osteoporosis. About 40 percent of men over 70 years of age have decreased levels of testosterone.
In many of the remaining cases, the causes are excessive calcium losses and inadequate vitamin D.
First, avoid animal protein, excess salt and caffeine, and tobacco, and to stay physically active in order to reduce calcium losses.
Second, take vitamin D supplements as prescribed by your physician. The usual amount is 600 IU (5 micrograms) per day, but it may be doubled if you get no sun exposure at all.
Finally, the risk of skin cancer, based on your skin tone and family history, should be borne in mind, when you weigh the relative risk of not wearing sunscreen to not getting enough Vitamin D.