Vitamin D, often called the “sunshine vitamin”, is essential for bone health, muscle strength and movement. It is formed by the skin’s reaction to sunlight and is also present in a certain foods and supplements. Recent research shows that vitamin D boosts the immune system and can possibly help manage depression. It may also safeguard against osteoporosis. Older adults are given vitamin D supplements to reduce the risk of fractures and falls. On the other hand, low levels of vitamin D have been linked to cardiovascular disease and mortality, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. In children deficiency of the sunshine vitamin causes rickets.
But are you getting enough vitamin D? A DailyRXNews report cites an expert as saying that low vitamin D is a chronic problem in the US, especially for those living in the northern half as they don’t get enough sunshine. The fact is if you don’t spend enough time in the sun or if your body is unable to absorb vitamin D, you may not be getting enough of it. However, you can get your daily dose of the sunshine vitamin by making a few simple lifestyle and dietary changes.
- We are usually told to avoid exposure to the sun by using sunscreen, but the truth is that sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D. To get 90% of the recommended daily intake of the vitamin, get a few minutes of exposure to the sunlight early in the morning or mid-evening for a few days a week.
- Fatty fish is a good source of vitamin D, so include more salmon, trout, mackerel, and tuna in your diet. Canned tuna fish and canned sardines are also good options to get your the daily dose of the vitamin.
- Vitamin D rich mushrooms are an ideal option for vegetarians. Sunflower seeds are also a rich source of monounsaturated fats, protein and vitamin D, but don’t eat too much as they are high in calories.
- Have a breakfast that includes vitamin D-rich items such as cereals, fortified milk, and fortified orange juice.
- Eggs are a great source of the vitamin, but remember that it’s found in the yolk. As one egg contains about 200 milligrams of cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends taking no more than 300 milligrams daily.
- As people age, they may need an extra dose of Vitamin D and supplements can also help bridge nutrient gaps. However, these should be taken only on a doctor’s advice and shouldn’t exceed safe limits. Moreover, they are not meant to replace a healthy diet. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends the safe upper limit for vitamin D intake as 4000 IU daily.
- Regular exercise is crucial as using the bones and muscles will help the the calcium binding in the bones to circulate.
It is important that you get your vitamin D level assessed. This is done through a simple blood test. Once you know your levels, adhering to the right diet and exercise pattern along with getting sufficient exposure to sunlight will help. If your vitamin D level is significantly low, your doctor will prescribe the right dose of supplements to normalize it.