Found on RunnersWorld.com and written by Pamela Nisevich Bede
You probably already know most of us don’t get enough calcium, but did you know more than 77 percent of the general population is also considered Vitamin D deficient? It’s safe to say that many of us can stand to boost the calcium and vitamin D in our diets. After all, the two go hand in hand when it comes to optimal nutrient absorption and utilization.
A little more vitamin D certainly can’t hurt: The “Sunshine Vitamin” (technically, a hormone) has a significant effect on muscle weakness, pain, balance, and fractures in the aging population, and promising research on its importance in exercise-related inflammation and prevention of chronic disease is accumulating. All of us would benefit from an adequate intake of Vitamin D, but the exact amount of Vitamin D that is needed to boost health is up for the debate. You may meet some runners who swear that their muscles function better at higher intake levels and other runners who have never popped a supplement yet still stand on the podium.
As you can see from the table below, the recommended daily intake (per the National Institute of Medicine (IOM) and the Endocrine Society) varies widely. The IOM’s recommendation is established to prevent clinical vitamin D deficiency, whereas other experts’ recommendations are designed at levels much higher than 600 IU per day to help reach optimal levels of 25(OH)D (the lab marker for vitamin D). Of course, vitamin D can be obtained when running outside in the sunshine, but the amount obtained can vary significantly depending on the time of the year, latitude, skin pigmentation, and whether you’re using sunscreen, so talk to your doctor about whether or not you should take a supplement. In the meantime, check out the table below to find some food sources of vitamin D.
National Institute of Medicine, Adults (19-70 years)
Recommended Intake (IU/day): 600
Upper Limit (IU/day): 4000
The Endocrine Society, Adults (19-70 years)
Recommended Intake (IU/day): 1500-2000
Upper Limit (IU/day): 10,000
Source: Ogan D, Pritchett K. Vitamin D and the Athlete: Risks, Recommendaitons, and Benefits. Nutrients 2013;5:1856-1868.
Good Sources of Vitamin D
A good source of vitamin D provides at least 40 IU of vitamin D per serving, which is 10 percent of the Daily Value for calcium (400 IU).
Food Item Portion size, standard amount Approx. Vitamin D content (IU/serving) Calories
Salmon, smoked 3 ounces 580 99
Salmon, canned 3 ounces 465 118
Mushrooms exposed to UV light 3 ounces (~5 medium) 375 20
Orange juice 1 cup 135 118
Tuna, light, canned in water, drained 3 ounces 150 99
Whole milk 1 cup 130 149
Whole chocolate milk 1 cup 130 208
Reduced fat chocolate milk (2%) 1 cup 120 190
Milk (nonfat, 1% and 2%) 1 cup 115 83–122
Low-fat chocolate milk (1%) 1 cup 110 158
Soymilk 1 cup 110 104
Shedd’s Spread Country Crock® Calcium plus Vitamin D 1 Tbsp 80* 50
Egg, hard-boiled 1 large 41 72
Fortified ready-to-eat cereals (various) ¾–1¼ cup (~ 1 ounce) 35-100 92–190
Data adapted from Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010. USDA.
Other sources: Individual company websites (see links), U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Nutrient Data Laboratory. 2009. USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 22.
Note: 1 mcg of vitamin D is equivalent to 40 IU. Values rounded to nearest whole number divisible by 5.
* Provides 20% Daily Value (estimated based on DV of 400IU/day)
Just like vitamin D has many functions in the body, calcium, its partner-in-crime, does as well. In addition to working alongside vitamin D to build stronger bones, calcium serves a vital role in nerve transmission, constriction and dilation of blood vessels, and muscle contraction. Health experts agree that eating enough calcium and vitamin D is important for healthy bones at all ages, especially to help reach peak bone mass in children and young adults. A diet chronically low in calcium and vitamin D is related to low bone mass and may contribute to the development of osteoporosis. While osteoporosis is usually diagnosed in adults, getting enough calcium and vitamin D throughout the life cycle makes a big difference—the stronger the bones are at 30, the greater the likelihood that bone loss will be delayed as you age.
Adding calcium to the diet starts with knowing where to find good sources, so check out the tables below to find obvious sources of calcium (dairy anyone?) and hidden sources that you might not yet be aware of.
Good Sources of Calcium
A good source of calcium provides at least 100 mg of calcium per serving, which is 10 percent of the Daily Value for calcium (1000 mg).
Dairy sources of Calcium
Food, Standard Amount Calcium (mg) Calories
Plain yogurt, non-fat (13 g protein/8 oz), 8-oz container 452 127
Plain yogurt, low-fat (12 g protein/8 oz), 8-oz container 415 143
Fruit yogurt, low-fat (10 g protein/8 oz), 8-oz container 345 232
Mozzarella cheese, part-skim, 1.5 oz 311 129
Fat-free (skim) milk 306 83
Muenster cheese, 1.5 oz 305 156
1% low-fat milk, 1 cup 290 102
Low-fat chocolate milk (1%), 1 cup 288 158
2% reduced fat milk, 1 cup 285 122
Reduced fat chocolate milk (2%), 1 cup 285 180
Buttermilk, low-fat, 1 cup 284 98
Non-dairy sources of calcium
Food, Standard Amount Calcium (mg) Calories
Fortified ready-to-eat cereals (various), 1 oz 236-1043 88-106
Soy beverage, calcium fortified, 1 cup 368 98
Sardines, Atlantic, in oil, drained, 3 oz 325 177
Tofu, firm, prepared with nigari , ½ cup 253 88
Pink salmon, canned, with bone, 3 oz 181 118
Collards, cooked from frozen, ½ cup 178 31
Molasses, blackstrap, 1 tbsp 172 47
Spinach, cooked from frozen, ½ cup 146 30
Soybeans, green, cooked, ½ cup 130 127
Turnip greens, cooked from frozen, ½ cup 124 24
Shedd’s Spread Country Crock® Calcium & Vitamin D, 1 tbsp 100 50
Oatmeal, plain and flavored, instant, fortified, 1 packet prepared