Vitamin D is a critical nutrient for the human body. Widely known for its support of the immune system and bone health, according to the Mayo Clinic, it can also have an effect on kidney disease, osteomalacia (bone softening in adults), psoriasis, rickets (bone weakening in children), thyroid issues, dental cavities, muscle pain and weakness, osteoporosis among others. One of the best things about Vitamin D is that it’s a nutrient that we can get FREE – just by being in the sunshine.
Careful sun exposure is a simple way for your body to get its dose of Vitamin D; however, there are seasonal issues that can often make this more difficult to achieve.
“Because vitamin D is involved in supporting essential functions like immunity and cancer prevention, as well as neurological, cardiovascular, and bone health,” says Dr. Frank Lipman, MD “it’s easy to see just how dangerous falling short can be.”
Another factor is the growing concern of melanoma and other skin cancers. Even in the sunny months of summer, it is common for people to lather up with sunscreen or sunblock to protect from the harmful UV rays that can cause skin cancer. Unfortunately, sunscreen with SPF as low as 15 can reduce your body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D by as much as 99%.
There are many factors that can impact the absorption of vitamin D through sun exposure, such as cloud cover, skin melanin content, and season to name a few. According to the National Institutes of Health, “the factors that affect UV radiation exposure and research to date on the amount of sun exposure needed to maintain adequate vitamin D levels make it difficult to provide general guidelines.”
Depending on a variety of factors, some vitamin D researchers suggest that anywhere from 5-30 minutes in the sunshine twice a week could be enough to give a person a healthy dose of vitamin D. In winter months, a time most people could benefit from a boost to their immune system, it can be much more difficult to absorb the needed Vitamin D from the sun due to the combination of shorter days and wearing attire to keep warm and protect our skin from colder temperatures. Regardless of the season, it is important to find good sources of vitamin D for your overall health.
It is simpler than you may think to find alternate sources of vitamin D. Here are a few food options you can incorporate into your dietary plans throughout the year to help maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D in all seasons.
- Fatty/Oily Seafood
If you like seafood, you are in luck! According to registered dietician Tyffanie Ammeter, just a “palm-sized serving” of fish such as sockeye salmon, mackerel, flounder, sole, swordfish, whitefish, sturgeon or rainbow trout can provide 75% to 100% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin D. For another option that is easier on the budget, look no further than the canned light tuna and sardines at your local grocery store.
Do you prefer a plant-based diet? No problem! “Mushrooms are rich in ergosterol (a Vitamin D precursor) which converts to provitamin D2. The enzymes in our body then convert this into the active form of Vitamin D, ” explained triple-board-certified physician Monisha Bhanote, MD, FASCP, FCAP. True, mushrooms are technically a fungi, not plants, they are the only non-animal naturally occurring source of vitamin D. The highest levels of the nutrient are found in wild mushrooms and those exposed to UV light.
- Cod Liver Oil
Though it has a reputation for its strong flavor, it is packed with vitamin D with up to 1300 IU’s per tablespoon. There are flavored gel capsules for those who wish to avoid some of the taste, but they should not be confused with Omega 3 fish oil supplements.
- Foods Fortified with Vitamin D
Due to its importance and the fact that so many do not get adequate amounts of vitamin D, many food suppliers add vitamin D to their products. Fortified foods include both animal and plant-based options. A few examples of vitamin D fortified foods are orange juice, milk, yogurt, soy milk, other non-dairy milk alternatives, eggs and many breakfast cereals.
- What Side Do You Want with That?
Vitamin D is fat-soluble, so it’s a good idea to eat whatever vitamin D rich food you select with a side of fat such as avocado, butter or a plant-based oil. This will increase the ability of your body to breakdown and absorb the nutrient. Of course, this isn’t necessary for some foods that are both high in vitamin D and contain fatty acids and/or saturated fat, such as eggs.
Depending on where you live, your age, current health conditions, lifestyle habits and other factors, you may still need help in getting an adequate dosage of vitamin D. If you feel you may be deficient in vitamin D, talk to your doctor at your next appointment. A simple blood test can be performed to determine your vitamin D level. Your provider may discuss supplementation recommendations to address the deficiency, if that is determined to be a need for you.
With their extensive training in nutrition, chiropractors are an excellent source of information and guidance regarding how vitamin D and other vital nutrients can impact your overall wellness. Talk to your doctor about your dietary habits and what changes you can make to improve your health. If you don’t have a chiropractor, you can find one near you at https://www.tnchiro.com/find-a-doctor/
Mitrokostas S. “6 of the best ways to get vitamin D in the winter.” INSIDER 2/1/19 https://www.msn.com/en-us/health/nutrition/6-of-the-best-ways-to-get-vitamin-d-in-the-winter/ar-BBT1ZOo?ocid=spartanntp
Tennessee Chiropractic Association. “You May Need More Vitamin D.” April 26, 2017. https://www.tnchiro.com/articles/you-may-need-more-vitamin-d/
For more information regarding vitamin D and other nutritional issues: https://www.tnchiro.com/articles/nutrition/