We all know that taking a vitamin supplement is important to our health, but understanding the role of many of the nutrients we consume is important to making informed decisions on our diets and health habits. One of the most important nutrients for our bodies is vitamin D.
It promotes calcium absorption and is an important part of maintaining our bones. When someone is lacking in vitamin D, they can have trouble processing the calcium they consume and become susceptible to skeletal diseases such as osteoporosis. In addition, bones can become thin, brittle or misshapen. Vitamin D is also important in aiding cell growth, the function of our immune system, reducing swelling and boosting our moods.
Vitamin D is not found naturally in many foods, but is often added to staples like flour and milk. It does occur naturally in fatty fish – such as salmon, tuna mackerel and fish liver oils. Small amounts of vitamin D can also be found in beef liver, cheese, some mushrooms and egg yolks.
We also produce vitamin D in our own bodies through exposure to sunlight. With a safe amount of sun exposure daily, you can add a boost to the amount of vitamin D already in your system. However, it’s important to limit your unprotected exposure to the sun, as we all know the harmful effects of too much sun. Most people get enough vitamin D through foods fortified with vitamin D, but going outside for at least a few minutes each day is still a good idea.
According to the National Institutes of Health, “Ample opportunities exist to form vitamin D (and store it in the liver and fat) from exposure to sunlight during the spring, summer, and fall months even in the far north latitudes.” However, the NIH notes that, “Season, time of day, length of day, cloud cover, smog, skin melanin content, and sunscreen are among the factors that affect UV radiation exposure and vitamin D synthesis.”
Becoming vitamin D deficient can lead to significant health problems. But if you maintain a healthy diet and get outside regularly, you shouldn’t worry. Talk to your doctor if you have questions about the recommended daily level of vitamins and minerals you should consume.