Shedding Light on Vitamin D
I’m a native Floridian and I’m able to exercise regularly outdoors—most often you’ll find me counting my steps as I power walk. Now I know many of you are not in a perennially sunny region where bright sunlight is a bonus several months of the year. And this year the big chill made the thought of outdoor activity or exercise even more daunting. If you’re in a sun-less part of the country not only do you miss out on the warm and relaxing touch of streaming sun rays, you also miss out on Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, and it is also a hormone that the body can make from exposure to the sun. Vitamin D and calcium work together—a dynamic duo of sorts, warding off nutrient defiency that can create weak bones and the development of soft bones or rickets in children. In adults the deficiency is indicated by misshapen bones or osteomalacia, and loss of bone mass or osteoporosis. In addition to playing a major role in bone growth, it benefits strong teeth and promotes a healthy immune system. Recent studies indicate there is also a connection between Vitamin D and heart disease, diabetes, stroke and autoimmune diseases.
How much is enough? The amount recommended varies with age. According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommendation is:
• children and teens: 600 IU
• adults up to age 70: 600 IU
• adults over age 70: 800 IU
• pregnant or breastfeeding women: 600 IU
However there are several theories that the NIH requirements are lower than the amounts the body actually needs. Some research recommends increasing Vitamin D intake to 1,000 IU daily. The numbers look good on a chart, but the actual intake of the big D is often lower than what is recommended.
Vitamin D intake can be increased by getting more sunlight, eating Vitamin D-rich foods and supplements. Regular exposure to sunlight is not an easy fix—if you’re living in one of the more temperate areas of the country, north of Philadelphia or Denver, it is not easy to make a lot of Vitamin D in the winter. If you’re in warm sunny weather, getting D from sunlight is easier, just remember to protect your skin from overexposure by using a sunscreen SPF 15 or higher.
Vitamin D rich foods ranking at the top of the heap are:
Cod Liver Oil, sure I know it can be polarizing, but it’s good for you.
Fish, such as salmon, swordfish, oil-packed varieties such as sardines, mackerel and tuna.
Raw Oysters and you thought they were just an aphrodisiac.
Fortified Soy Products
Salami, Ham and Sausages
Fortified Dairy Products
Looking at this list I see a very tasty menu; there is variety and plenty of options to pair these foods up and boost your Vitamin D intake. Suggested combinations include:
Mushroom Omelet, whole grain toast
Caviar topped deviled eggs
Ham, Salami or sausage sandwich on whole grain bread
Tuna salad with tofu, fresh dill and cucumbers on whole grain crackers.
You know my mantra include a variety of foods in your diet to ensure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need. Add foods that contain high levels of Vitamin D to your grocery list. When your town is enjoying a sunny day-go outside; walk, bike or run get your workout in and boost your Vitamin D too.
Take Away: Make the most of sunny days, enjoy outdoor exercise and a snack on vitamin rich foods.