Vitamin D has been the superstar of the vitamin world for the past several years and for good reason, it’s pretty dang awesome! Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and plays a big role in helping you have strong and healthy bones. This vitamin is special though. Your body, more specifically your skin, can produce vitamin D when you get some sunshine. Curious what else vitamin D is good for? Read on!
Benefits of Vitamin D:
You might know that calcium helps keep your bones healthy, but did you know that vitamin D is just as important? It increases calcium absorption in your bones by helping deliver calcium to the bones, helping the bones “remodel” and become stronger. This helps prevent osteoporosis, a condition common in populations over 40 that causes bones to become weak and brittle. Brittle bones are easily broken, and many people show no symptoms until their first bone fracture, making this a dangerous condition.
But the benefits of vitamin D aren’t limited to just preventing osteoporosis. Eating a diet high in both vitamin D and calcium throughout your life can help keep your bones strong in the long run. Vitamin D is also shown to prevent rickets (a disease that causes a softening and weakening in bones) usually in children. In the early 1930’s, milk started being fortified with vitamin D and rickets were successfully decreased in the population. Fully or partially breastfed babies are now recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics to be given vitamin D supplementation in order to prevent rickets. Vitamin D is also shown to decrease your risk for numerous other diseases and illnesses, such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Vitamin D Deficiencies:
Are you at risk for a vitamin D deficiency? Although being deficient is less common nowadays, it’s by no means impossible. Risk factors include not going in the sun very often, being a vegan, or not including vitamin D fortified foods in your diet. Even if you do go in the sun, if you’re often covered up or wearing sunscreen you won’t be able to absorb the vitamin D from the ultraviolet rays.
Your skin color can also make a difference, because having darker skin shows you have an increased amount of melanin. Melanin is the pigment that makes the color of your skin, but it blocks out a lot of the sun’s rays, which is why if you have darker skin you don’t get sunburned as easily. Therefore, if you have a lot of melanin you need a little extra sun exposure in order to absorb enough vitamin D.
Because most foods high in vitamin D are animal products, vegans may not be eating enough vitamin D and have to be careful to avoid a deficiency.Eating fortified cereals and milks or soy milk helps prevent a deficiency for everyone of all ages. However; even if you eat vitamin D rich foods, realize that caffeine is an inhibitor. Caffeine inhibits other vitamins too, so try to avoid pairing all of your meals with a cup of coffee.
There are other risk factors that you should also be on the look out for. Older adults as well as those with higher BMI’s absorb less, and if you have kidney problems or gut issues like Crohn’s disease you can also have trouble. Talk to your doctor if you’re worried and think that taking a supplement might be right for you.
Foods with vitamin D:
Fortunately, there are many foods rich in vitamin D that you can eat to keep your bones healthy. Add some of these foods to your cart next time you go shopping to increase the vitamin D in your diet:
Fatty fish (tuna, cod, salmon, mackerel)
Fish liver oil
Fortified milks/Cereals/Orange Juice
Mushrooms that have been UV radiated
Animal products have active vitamin D (D3) whereas plant products (mushrooms) have D2. However, both are useable and accessible sources although D3 is more common. Remember, eating them with foods rich in calcium will have the biggest effect. Some foods that would work include:
Dairy products (milk, yogurt, cheeses)
Leafy greens (lettuce, spinach, kale, etc)
Legumes (white beans, edamame)
So … there are a lot of different ways to get your daily vitamin D. Whether you’re a vegetarian or an avid meat eater, there are many sources of vitamin D found naturally in foods. Even going out in the sun 15 minutes a day can help you reach your needs, and your bones will thank you in the future!