As you walk outside and feel the sun on your face, you may not realize your body is producing vitamin D. This “sunshine” vitamin is best known for its role in bone health, but research is finding there is so much more to this nutrient. Read below to find all about vitamin D and how you can reap the full health benefits today.
Health benefits of vitamin D
The health benefit vitamin D is best known for is that it aids in absorption of calcium in the gut. In turn, it helps bone maintain bone strength, growth, and remodeling. Besides bone health though, research shows that vitamin D supplementation may also help to:
- Improve cognitive function
- Prevent certain cancers
- Lower risk of heart disease and related risk factors like high blood pressure
A recent study also shows that high dose supplementation, under the supervision of a qualified healthcare provider, may also improve glucose metabolism.
Tips to have more vitamin D in your life through food
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in both foods and through the sun. Foods like cod liver oil and salmon are rich sources of vitamin D, while other good sources of vitamin D include:
- Tuna fish
- Beef liver
- Egg yolk
- Raw maitake mushrooms
- Dried shiitake mushrooms
You can also find vitamin D in foods and drinks fortified with vitamin D. This means that vitamin D is not found naturally in these foods, but is added. Such foods fortified with vitamin D include orange juice, milk, yogurt, and cereal products.
Other ways to reap the benefits of vitamin D
If you don’t eat any of these foods on a regular basis, then the sun-absorbing supplementation of vitamin D may be a better option. Experts suggest that to absorb enough sunlight to produce adequate vitamin D levels, you need to have 5 to 10 minutes of bare skin sun exposure 2 to 3 times a week. Those at risk for vitamin D deficiency include:
- Those who live in northern climates
- People who don’t go outside much
- Dark-skinned individuals
- Those with malabsorption issues
- Breastfed infants
If you feel that it will be hard for you to receive vitamin D from vitamin D-rich foods or from the sun, then a supplement may be a better fit for you.
How much vitamin D do you need?
For most children and adults, the daily recommended dose of vitamin D is 600 IU, while breastfed infants should receive 400 IU daily. However, if you’re deficient in vitamin D, a 2010 Institute of Medicine report says it’s safe for a doctor to prescribe or recommend up to 4000 IU of vitamin D each day.
Take home message
Since about 40-percent of the United States population is vitamin D-deficient, it’s important to learn how to acquire this nutrient. Certain foods in the diet as well as the sun or supplements can provide you all the vitamin D you need for optimal health. Therefore, be sure to ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels tested annually. This way you can make sure your body has all the vitamin D it needs to keep your overall health at its best.