As we wrap up National Nutrition Month, let’s talk about Vitamin D. Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for our overall health, but many people in the United States, as well as worldwide, are not getting enough of this essential vitamin.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency is incredibly common and most people are unaware of it. It can weaken your immune system, cause depression and anxiety, and may facilitate the growth of other serious ailments such as, cancer, diabetes, and heart disease. If you shun the sun, suffer from milk allergies, or adhere to a strict vegan diet, you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency. People who stay indoors, and people who live in northern regions might not get enough vitamin D from sunshine, even in the summer.
In the winter, the sun isn’t strong enough to give us sufficient amounts of vitamin D, which is why it is recommended to take supplements and eat vitamin D enriched foods. Older people are also at risk for vitamin D deficiency, because they are less likely to spend time in the sun, have fewer “receptors” in their skin that convert sunlight to vitamin D, and may have more trouble converting dietary vitamin D to a useful form due to kidney problems.
Why Is It Important?
Vitamin D is necessary to absorb calcium and phosphorus minerals found in the body and plays an important role in maintaining proper growth and structure, as well as proper development and maintenance of bone tissue. It keeps us healthy by making our bones strong, our teeth healthy, and helps maintain brain functionality.
Benefits of Vitamin D.
- Vitamin D is linked to good bone and tooth health.
- Increased muscle strength and balance.
- Reduced risk of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and cancer.
- Depression & anxiety management.
- Improved lung function.
How Do I Get the Most Vitamin D?
An easy way for most people to get the vitamin D they need is through sun exposure. Exposure of the hands, face, arms, and legs to sunlight will cause the skin to produce enough. Exposure times vary with age, skin type, season, and the time of day. Body fat stores vitamin D during periods of sunlight, and is released when sunlight is gone. If you have to spend a lot of time in direct sunlight, it is always best to apply a thin layer of sunscreen before heading out. It is important to get at least 15 – 30 minutes of sunlight exposure daily. You can also get vitamin D through your diet and supplements.
The best way to get enough vitamin D every day is to eat a variety of healthy foods from all food groups. Since there is a limited number of foods that contain vitamin D, getting enough of it from your diet alone is difficult. While sun exposure does produce vitamin D, too much sun exposure can increase the risk of skin cancer. Therefore, the addition of vitamin D supplements may be needed. Functioning as a fat soluble vitamin, it is recommended to take vitamin D with foods such as, coconut, avocado, eggs, or other healthy fat enriched foods.
Foods that provide vitamin D:
- Fatty fish, like tuna, mackerel, and salmon.
- Dairy products fortified with vitamin D.
- Orange juice.
- Soy milk.
- Egg yolk.
Getting enough vitamin D can go a long way to boosting your health. Remember to eat a healthy diet to assure your body is getting all the of nutrients it needs to function correctly. Follow the link below if you want to learn more about the effects of Vitamin D.