For those of you who still don’t know the importance of vitamin D and it’s function here is a great article from the Fooducate app that provides great info. I have talked about this in past blogs based off of experience with working with clients who have very low vitamin D in the effects of it. For those of you who are new to my blogs if you haven’t had your vitamin do you levels checked it’s highly recommended as you can definitely tell a change with it or without it.
Vitamin D – Health Benefits, Food Sources, and Supplement Advice
Vitamin D is not a vitamin
A vitamin is a chemical found in food, that the human body cannot make on its own. Vitamin D is actually a hormone that the body produces, as a result of complex chemical reactions triggered by sun exposure. It can also be ingested from food or supplements. Despite the misnomer, we will continue calling it vitamin D.
Before it can be of any help to the body, vitamin D is activated in a 2-step process, first by the liver and then by the kidneys. Once active, vitamin D participates in a host of metabolic activities.
Vitamin D health benefits
Vitamin D is critical for proper bone health. It promotes calcium absorption and helps prevent osteoporosis.
Additional roles of vitamin D include reduction of inflammation, neuromuscular and immune support, and possibly warding off depression.
Some studies posit that vitamin D can help with weight loss, and reduction in risk for certain diseases, but there isn’t a large body of evidence yet.
How much Vitamin D do I need?
If you are between the ages of 1 and 70, you need 15 micro-grams (mcg) per day (600 International Units). Older individuals need 20 mcg per day. Your body can produce all the vitamin D it needs simply by you being in the sun with exposed skin (arms and face, for example).
People living in northern areas with little chances of exposure, or most of us during the winter months, may not be getting sufficient amounts.
The good news is that vitamin D can accumulate in the body over time. So you do not necessarily need to “recharge” every single day.
Studies conducted in the past 2 decades claim that the majority of Americans don’t get enough vitamin D, and that the daily intake should increase to 25 mcg per day.
People at risk for lower levels of vitamin D
- post-menopausal women
- people who had gastric bypass procedures,
- individuals who have celiac and other nutrient absorption related conditions
- dark skinned people whose body is more effective at blocking sunshine
If you are in a risk group, consult with a health professional and consider get tested for vitamin D levels.
Foods with naturally occurring vitamin D
There are very few foods with naturally occurring vitamin D. They include:
- cod liver oil (1 tablespoon has 34 mcg, 220% of the daily value)
- swordfish (3 oz serving, 14 mcg, 94% DV)
- salmon (3 oz, 11 mcg, 75% DV)
- tuna (canned or fresh) (3 oz, 4 mcg, 25% DV)
- sardines (2 pieces, 1 mcg, 7% DV)
- beef liver (3 oz, 1 mcg, 7% DV)
- eggs, mostly the yolk (1 mcg, 7% DV)
Another food that comes with vitamin D, in some cases, is mushrooms. Some farmers expose mushrooms to ultraviolet light and that causes them to produce vitamin D. A 3-ounce bunch of white mushrooms exposed to UV light can reach 100% of the DV! Check the package before buying.
Foods that are fortified with vitamin D
In the US, public health officials have mandated dairy milk be fortified with vitamin D. This historical decision virtually eliminated rickets, a disease that many children suffered from.
- Dairy milk – 25% DV
- Dairy-free milk – varies, check the label
- Orange juice – varies, but juice is high in sugar so may not be worth it.
- Breakfast cereal – some manufacturers add vitamin D, but again, if the cereal is high in sugar, seek nutrients elsewhere.
Vitamin D supplements
If you can’t get sufficient amounts of vitamin D from sunshine or food, the supplement industry will be more than happy to sell you some. It is available as D2 or D3.
Vitamin D is actually a group of compounds. The most common are vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol).
Vitamin D3 is from animal sources, while vitamin D2 is derived from yeast and fungi and as such can be consumed by vegans and vegetarians.
Vitamin D is a critical component of bone health. If you’ve never checked your blood vitamin D levels, go ahead and check if you are deficient. In any case, there are multiple food sources as well as supplements to choose from.
- Cranney et al – Effectiveness and safety of vitamin D in relation to bone health – NIH, 2007
- Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.
- Clarke et al – Vitamin D Insufficiency – Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2011
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