Commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D was discovered to be deficient in nearly half of those tested at the close of winter in research conducted by the University of Maine. So as the sun slips away this winter, be on the alert for signs of vitamin D deficiency.
The symptoms—bone pain and muscle weakness—can be hard to spot or easily attributed to other causes. For many people, the symptoms are subtle or nonexistent, but that doesn’t mean a vitamin D deficiency isn’t doing behind-the-scenes damage and putting you at risk for a number of minor to severe health issues.
The surest way to know if you’re deficient is to have your blood tested by a doctor, but something you can do immediately is to educate yourself on the causes of vitamin D deficiency, how much you should be getting, and where you can find it.
Who’s at risk of being deficient?
If you don’t take supplements, consume it in your diet, or get enough sun exposure, you may be vitamin D deficient, but there are other factors that can make it even more difficult to get the daily dose you need for optimal health.
If you are any of the following, you may be at greater risk:
- over fifty
In view of these indicators, it should be easy to understand why Nutrition Research reports that nearly 42% of U.S. adults don’t get enough vitamin D, a troubling statistic as the health benefits of the vitamin are incredible.
What does vitamin D do for you?
Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium and phosphorous, which makes it essential to bone health, but did you know that research has also shown that vitamin D may help combat high blood pressure, regulate the immune system, reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, and more?
How much do you need?
The suggested ideal amount of daily vitamin D for adults has been the subject of great debate, with suggested amounts ranging from 600 IU to 8,000 IU for adults under 70 (dosages are more for those 70+ in age). Research as of 2015 suggests a daily dose of 7,000 IU for adults. Consult with your health care provider to determine where your levels are at and how much you should be eating and supplementing.
Where can you find it?
To get the higher level of suggested amounts, supplementing with Vitamin D3 is the most feasible and healthy option, but vitamin D production is a naturally occurring process in our skin as a response to UVB rays in sunlight. Melanin and sunscreen block the absorption of these rays, which is why those with darker skin have more trouble producing the vitamin, but don’t stop protecting your skin in the sun! It is the best way to minimize the risks of developing skin cancer.
To incorporate vitamin D into your diet, meal plan with these foods:
- fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)
- beef liver
- egg yolks
- vitamin D-fortified milk, cereal, orange juice, yogurt, and soy/tofu
However you bring more vitamin D into your life, remember that doing so will not only help to improve your bone health, but may give your immune system and mood a wonderful boost during the coming cold and cloudy months.