Good Day, Sunshine!
I went down the shore today and enjoyed the warming sun rays, light breeze and blue sky. It was a picture -perfect day.
Which naturally got me thinking about Vitamin D (weird, I know, but that’s just where my mind goes sometimes).
It's difficult to get enough vitamin D; vitamin D is, therefore, a very common deficiency. In fact, I found that my levels were low back in 2020 and took steps to correct that with a megadose prescription from my doctor. Now I take vitamin D regularly because I can’t hang at the beach everyday now, can I?
The three ways to get vitamin D are exposure to the sun, consuming food containing Vitamin D, and through supplements. Living north of the equator can reduce our chances of getting enough from the sun, as well as slathering our bodies in sunscreen. So we need to rely on eating whole foods and supplements to get enough vitamin D.
Why is vitamin D important, and how much do we need?
Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our food and acts like a hormone to help us build strong bones. Vitamin D can also help with immune function, cellular growth, and help to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal affective disorder. My supplement of choice is one that contains Vitamin D, Vitamin K and calcium because both vitamins D and K support calcium absorption. And importantly, directing the calcium to your bones, not your arteries.
Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to bone diseases like osteomalacia. Inadequate vitamin D can also increase your risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, and even death. The "official" minimum amount of vitamin D to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU. Many experts think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health.
And there is evidence that Vitamin D is also beneficial in fighting COVID and reducing the effects of the virus in specific populations, such as people over the age of 65 or people of color, both of which have increased risk for poor outcomes with COVID 19. Sufficient quantities of Vitamin D can help stave off respiratory infections, both of which may afflict these populations for varied reasons.
So, let's talk about how much of this critical fat-soluble vitamin we need, and how you can get enough.
How can I get enough vitamin D from the sun?
Your skin makes vitamin D when it's exposed to the sun; that's why it's referred to as the "sunshine vitamin." How much vitamin D your skin makes depends on many things. Location, season, clouds, clothing, all affect the amount of vitamin D your skin can produce from the sun. One standard recommendation is to get about 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. to the face, arms, legs, or back. This should be done without sunscreen, at least twice a week. Of course, we should always avoid sunburns and of course in some locations (and seasons of the year) it's not easy to get sun exposure. So, how can we get enough vitamin D in other ways?
How can I get enough vitamin D from food?
Vitamin D is naturally found in fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. Some mushrooms make vitamin D when they are exposed to the sun.
Some foods are "fortified" (which means vitamin D has been added) with vitamin D. These include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. It will say on the label how much vitamin D has been added per serving.
Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can increase absorption of it from your food if you eat it with some fat (healthy fat, of course). Between sun exposure and food, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D each day; this is why vitamin D supplements are quite popular.
How can I get enough vitamin D from supplements?
It's easy enough to just "pop a pill" or take some cod liver oil (which also contains vitamin A). Either of these can ensure that you get the minimum amount of vitamin D, plus a bit extra.
But before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure you check that it won't interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking. Always read your labels and ask a healthcare professional for advice.
Do not take more than the suggested dosage on the label of any vitamin D supplement, except under medical care.
The maximum amount recommended (for the general population) is 4,000 IU/day. Too much vitamin D can raise your blood levels of calcium (to an unsafe level), and this can affect your heart and kidneys.
The best thing, if you are concerned, is to ask your healthcare professional to do a blood test and make a recommendation about how much vitamin in supplement form is right for you. That is how I found out I was deficient. Your healthcare practitioner may recommend higher amounts of vitamin D supplementation for a short time while under their care.
Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin which; many people have a hard time maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D. There are three ways to get enough vitamin D: sun exposure, through certain foods, and in supplements.
Now, I have given you some ideas how you can get the minimum 400-600 IU or vitamin D daily. It is up to you to follow through.
If you're concerned, it's best to request a blood test that tests your vitamin D levels to be sure what's right for you. Always take supplements as directed.
In the meantime, here is a delicious meal you can make that will give you a healthy dose of Vitamin D naturally!
Recipe: Super-Simple Grilled Salmon
4 wild salmon fillets
1 bunch asparagus
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 black pepper
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp. dried dill
4 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven broiler and raise the oven rack. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet and place fish on top, skin-side down. Surround with a single layer of asparagus.
Sprinkle the fish and asparagus with sea salt, pepper, parsley, and dill. Drizzle with olive oil.
Broil for 8-10 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork. Serve with quinoa or brown rice.