Soak Up the Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, has been a hot topic in the nutrition world. Notorious for its role in bone health, recent research has and is continuing to explore countless additional roles vitamin D plays in health. As winter rapidly approaches and daylight hours decrease, our need for vitamin D is increasing. Nonetheless, today I am sharing why vitamin D is so important to include in our nutritional defense.
What exactly is Vitamin D and why is it important?
- One of the four fat-soluble vitamins, along with A, E, and K
- Needed for absorption of calcium and phosphorus - hello strong bones!
- Plays an important role in muscle and cardiac function - increased training performance
- Associated with mental functioning and mood disorders through hormone regulation
- Linked to decreased inflammation and increased immunity
- Potentially reduces risk of cardiovascular disease, rheumatoid & osteoarthritis, diabetes, and some cancers
I eat a balanced diet, so why am I deficient?
Vitamin D comes from 3 different sources:
- Food - salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, shiitake mushrooms, egg yolk
- Supplements (including multivitamins)
It has been found that vitamin D has a high prevalence of deficiency worldwide. Specifically, vitamin D was identified as an “under consumed nutrient” in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This means it is often difficult for us to rely on vitamin D from food sources alone. Another option for vitamin D is through synthesis of UV rays from the sun, especially UVB rays. However, those of us living above a latitude of 35 degrees (yay New Hampshire!) are unable to make vitamin D in the winter months.
Now this is where supplementation can fill some holes.
Defining deficiency and optimal intake has been proven to be difficult over the years. Vitamin D status is determined using a blood test measuring for 25-hydroxy vitamin D. According to the Vitamin D Council, deficiency is defined at <30 ng/ml, sufficiency at 40-80 ng/ml, and recommends 5000 IU per day of vitamin D3. However, the Institute of Medicine has some different defining markers: <20 ng/ml for deficiency, 20-50 ng/ml for sufficiency, and 600 IU per day of supplementation.
My recommendations would be to first evaluate your risk: How many vitamin D rich food sources are you currently eating? Are you taking any supplements that include vitamin D? How is your sun exposure (except it's winter so I can answer that for all of you!)?
Next, set up an appointment with your physician to get some blood work done to see if you're deficient. Truly knowing your current vitamin D status is much better than guessing or assuming. Dependent on what your status is, it can be determined with the help of your healthcare professional what level of supplementation is best for YOU.
Remember, vitamin D goes beyond just bone health. Based on your vitamin D status, interventions such as dietary, supplementation, and lifestyle can be made!
BONUS: remember the SFH Omega-3 Natural Fish Oil I mentioned last week that we carry in our Get Fit NH coolers? Along with the omega-3 fatty acids, this fish oil includes 1000 IUs of vitamin D3!
Eating for Health Every Day,