The last time you had a cold- did anyone tell you “should need more vitamin D”? I hear this all the time during cold and flu season and got to thinking about how important vitamin D really is in the human body.
Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that naturally occurs (in small doses) in the foods we eat every day- and is also produced by our own body when we are exposed to sunlight. This vitamin does many things in our bodies; it promotes calcium absorption, so we can use the calcium that we ingest (by doing this, it wards of rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults), it has a role in cell growth, immune function, and helps us out even more by reducing inflammation.
Due to the amount of vitamin D that is now placed into our everyday food intake by manufacturers, very few of us are deficient of that particular vitamin- though some people still manage to come in just under the recommended dosage of vitamin D.
This great article by Marisa Cohen of Shape magazine gives us a few ways to safely bump up your vitamin D intake.
Worried you’re D-ficient?
Two thirds of Americans have enough vitamin D, according to data from the institute of Medicine. But if your doctor can tell you for sure with a routine blood test. And if you are truly lacking (below 20 nanograms per milliliter), there are healthful ways to get your 600 recommended international units of daily D. Hint: Tanning is not one of them!
Vitamin D supplements
Available at any drugstore, supplements are the easiest means to get your full day’s worth of D. Look for one with between 600 and 1,000IU, suggests Steven Q. Wang, M.D., director of dermatologic surgery and dermatology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in Basking Ridge, New Jersey. Don’t overdo it: Exceeding the recommended cap of 4,000IU per day (from all sources) can lead to kidney or heart damage.
A little sun-with sunscreen
In theory, sunscreen can shield all UVB rays (the burning ones) needed to create vitamin D. But in real life, some rays will always sneak through. “Most people put on only half the amount of sunscreen needed for full protection,” Dr. Wang points out. Depending on several factors- the season, the latitude where you live, how fair your skin is and your weight- it’s possible to get as many as 4,000IU of vitamin D after only 10 minutes with 25 percent of your body exposed. That means in the summer, when you’re wearing short sleeves and skirts, you could be getting enough sun to rev some vitamin D production- even if you’re applying sunscreen.
Because the sun isn’t the best source for your daily dose of D, your diet can help. Only a few foods naturally contain vitamin D, including egg yolks, liver and wild salmon, which, for example delivers up to 500IU in a 3-ounce fillet. That’s why some foods are fortified with D, including milk and soymilk, orange juice, cereal and some yogurts. But “you’d have to drink 6 cups of milk or 12 cups of orange juice a day to get 600IU,” says Lona Sandon, R.D., a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association. You can’t count entirely on your diet for D, buy you can definitely pump up your numbers.