Calcium and Vitamin D -- a Healthy Combination

Studies show the nutrients may have weight-loss dividends -- and more.

ByOPINION by STEFAN ASCHAN

June 14, 2007 — -- Last month, researchers with the Women's Health Initiative published a study in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine suggesting that women who had reached menopause might be able to curb weight gain by upping their intake of calcium and vitamin D.

Other studies too have shown that increased calcium intake may benefit weight loss, as it has been shown to have an effect on how the body breaks down and stores fat. So all in all, we have known about calcium's slimming potential for quite a while now.

Nowadays, you can probably ask any schoolchild how to get more calcium and vitamin D in your diet, and he or she will correctly suggest that you should up your intake of milk and milk products.

But here's the catch: About 70 percent of blacks and 6 percent of whites are lactose intolerant. In short, they get sick when drinking milk.

What are those individuals and those who avoid drinking milk because of their diet philosophy going to do?

Fortunately, we know that we can buy supplements in the store for extra calcium and vitamin D. But there are also other foods that are also good sources of these nutrients.

The list of foods that contain large amounts of calcium reads like a grocery list -- or at least it should if you're shopping with health in mind!

Broccoli, cauliflower, peas, beans and most green leafy vegetables are good sources -- with the exception of spinach, chard and beet greens. These last few contain oxalic acid, which decreases calcium absorption.

Calcium isn't limited to vegetables, mind you. Almonds, Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and grapefruit also contain respectable amounts.

Another factor that we should consider is the conditions in our bodies that increase or decrease our abilities to absorb calcium. Dr. Elson M. Haas sums this up very nicely in his book, "Staying Healthy with Nutrition."

Calcium absorption is increased by:

On the other hand, calcium absorption is decreased by:

Notice that exercise is mentioned in the category "increased by." I love it! Another great factor to consider in a weight-loss program.

You should also be thinking about the calcium that is stored in your bones. Understand that your bones adjust to the external environment. When you exercise with resistance, your bones respond by storing more calcium, which in turn strengthens them.

Hence, one of the best ways to prevent osteoporosis is resistant exercise. The opposite is the case as well; if we don't exercise against resistance, our bodies do not store as much calcium in our bones, which makes them brittle.

So now we know that an increase intake of calcium helps us to burn fat and that exercise helps us to strengthen our bones.

But you are receiving so many more benefits then that. Through exercise you build lean muscle tissue and therefore burn more calories. You are able to stay active even in older age, and you won't be afraid of falling, as your strong bones, from calcium intake and exercise, and your muscles, will help to prevent you from falling.

And if you do fall you most likely will able to catch yourself or fall and use your muscular system to prevent injuries.

A toast to calcium and exercise.

Stefan Aschan is the owner and founder of www.strength123.com, providing nutrition and exercise programs in New York City.

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