As you prepare for those long summer days filled with backyard BBQs, family camping trips and time at the pool, you may think you’re getting just the right dose of Vitamin D from all of that sunshine. But, there’s more to this vitamin than just soaking up the sun (with sunscreen on, of course!).
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, is considered a pro-hormone and is synthesized by our bodies when skin is exposed to sunlight. It helps our bodies absorb calcium building strong bones and teeth and can help ward off osteoporosis.
However, getting the vitamin D you need isn’t quite as simple as soaking up the rays. Vitamin D breaks down quickly, and in the winter – especially in northern latitudes – the sun never gets high enough for UVB rays to penetrate the atmosphere and reach your skin. So how do you get enough vitamin D?
We asked Kelcie Atkin, RD, LD, CDE, Outpatient Dietary Educator for Renown Health, for more information on the topic.
“Vitamin D deficiency is found to be linked to multiple health concerns; everything from cancer to depression,” says Atkin. “That said, rates of vitamin D deficiency are high in the U.S. due to various reasons, with the increasing rates of obesity being one factor.”
Another factor explaining why most Americans are low in vitamin D is that we get very little of our vitamin D from our diet, with most of our vitamin D being produced via exposure to sunlight. However, lounging in the sun for long hours without sunblock isn’t recommend either due to risk for skin cancer, thus, a supplement might not be a bad idea if your doctor is okay with it.
“If your vitamin D levels are low, eating high vitamin D foods, such as fatty fish, mushrooms, dairy, eggs and fortified cereals and orange juice, can help, but it typically isn’t enough to correct a deficiency, nor are over-the-counter vitamin D supplements,” explains Atkin. “Most people require a prescription-dose level of vitamin D to correct deficiency.”
Eating Foods That Are Rich in Vitamin D
- Fatty fish such as salmon, herring and tuna
- Fortified milk and orange juice
- Fortified cereals
- Cod Liver Oil
Taking the Correct Vitamin D Supplement
Vitamin D intake is measured in two ways: micrograms (mcg) and International Units (IU).
Recommendations from the National Institutes of Health suggest that an average daily intake of 400–800 IU, or 10–20 mcg, is adequate for 97.5% of individuals.
- Infants 0-12 months – 400 IU (10 mcg)
- Children 1-18 years – 600 IU (15 mcg)
- Adults to age 70 – 600 IU (15 mcg)
- Adults over 70 – 800 IU (20 mcg)
- Pregnant or lactating women – 600 IU (15 mcg)
Top 5 Reasons Why You Need Vitamin D
- Maintains healthy bones and teeth
- Supports the health of the immune system, brain, and nervous system
- Regulates insulin levels and aids diabetes management
- Supports lung function and cardiovascular health
- Influences the expression of genes involved in cancer development
10 Signs of a Vitamin D Deficiency
Common warning signs you may be lacking the proper amount of vitamin D. A simple blood test is all you need to know if you’re at risk. (Source)
- Depression or anxiety
- Bone softening (low bone density) or fractures
- Fatigue and generalized weakness
- Muscle cramps and weakness
- Joint pain (most noticeable in the back and knees)
- Blood sugar issues
- Low immunity
- Low calcium levels in the blood
- Mood changes and irritability
- Weight gain