Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that plays a critical role in the health and wellbeing of every human being. Yet, despite its importance, many people don’t get enough vitamin D, leading to negative health consequences and a host of problems. In this article, we’ll dive into the benefits of vitamin D, how to get more of it, and the risks of deficiency.
The Benefits of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in some foods and made by the body through sun exposure. Its primary function is to help the body absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for bone health. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in regulating the immune system, improving mood, and reducing the risk of certain cancers, including breast and colon cancer. Research also suggests that vitamin D may help reduce the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
How to Boost Vitamin D Levels
There are two primary ways to increase vitamin D levels: through diet and sun exposure. While sunlight is the most effective way to boost vitamin D levels, it’s essential to protect your skin from the sun’s harmful rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends seeking shade, wearing protective clothing, and using a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30.
To get more vitamin D through your diet, focus on consuming foods that are naturally rich in this nutrient. Good sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (such as salmon and tuna), egg yolks, cheese, and fortified foods such as milk, cereal, and orange juice. Mushrooms and some plant-based milks are also good sources of vitamin D.
If it’s challenging to get enough vitamin D through your diet and sun exposure, supplements are another option. Speak with your doctor before starting any new supplements, as they can interact with other medications or cause side effects.
The Risks of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D deficiency can sometimes go unnoticed because it may not cause any visible symptoms. However, prolonged vitamin D deficiency can lead to poor bone health, including osteoporosis and a higher risk of fractures. In children, inadequate vitamin D can result in rickets, a severe medical condition where the bones become weak, brittle, and deformed. Along with compromised bone health, vitamin D deficiency is associated with an increased risk of falls in older adults, cancer, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
The best way to know if you’re deficient in vitamin D is to get tested. A simple blood test can determine your vitamin D levels, and your doctor can recommend the appropriate treatment if your levels are low.
Foods That Are High in Vitamin D
There are many foods that are naturally high in vitamin D, making them a healthy addition to any diet. Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna are excellent sources of vitamin D. Egg yolks, fortified milk and orange juice, and cheese also contain small amounts of vitamin D. For plant-based options that are high in vitamin D, try mushrooms and fortified plant-based milk.
Incorporating vitamin D-rich foods into your diet doesn’t have to be difficult. Try making salmon for dinner or adding a boiled egg to your salad for lunch. You can also substitute plant-based milk for cow’s milk in smoothies or use it as a cream substitute in pasta dishes.
Vitamin D Supplementation
If you’re not getting enough vitamin D from sunlight and your diet, supplements may be a viable option. You can find vitamin D supplements at most pharmacies, grocery stores, and online retailers. When choosing a supplement, make sure to select a reputable brand, and consult with your doctor to determine the proper dosage. For most adults, the recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 600-800 IU. However, this amount can vary depending on age, medical conditions, and other factors.
Vitamin D is essential for overall health and wellbeing, and maintaining adequate levels is critical for long-term health. If you’re concerned about your vitamin D levels, talk to your doctor today. By making small changes in your diet and getting safe sun exposure, you can significantly boost your vitamin D levels and improve your overall health.