Experts agree that vitamin D is essential for your many aspects of your health, but the latest research questions vitamin D as a panacea for cancer and heart health.
According to everydayhealth.com here is what you need to know now about vitamin D: how much you need, where to get it, and more.
The Importance of Vitamin D
In addition to helping the body absorb calcium, vitamin D also regulates the body’s calcium levels in the blood, as well as levels of the mineral phosphorus, which also helps to promote healthy bones and teeth.
Vitamin D deficiency can be serious, causing bones to deteriorate and weaken. In adults, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to the bone condition osteoporosis and, in children, it can cause rickets — soft and weak bones. Although more research is needed, some studies have suggested that vitamin D may have many other beneficial effects, such as boosting the immune system.
Where to Get Your Vitamin D
The body produces vitamin D on its own after exposure to sunlight. You can also take a vitamin D supplement or get vitamin D from certain foods though it can be challenging to get all the D you need from diet alone.
Foods rich in vitamin D include:
Fish, such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, and oysters
Vitamin D-enriched cereal
Some eggs (but the hens must have been given vitamin D)
Vitamin D-fortified milk or juice
Margarine and butter
Dairy foods including cream and cheese
The Vitamin D Conundrum
So just how much vitamin D do you need? It depends on your gender and age. Get too little vitamin D, and you’ll feel the effects of vitamin D deficiency. Too much of it — and your blood can contain too much calcium, harming your lungs, heart, or kidneys.
Many physicians are now testing vitamin D levels in their patients and results often show low vitamin D levels. Based on these results, doctors often recommend much higher supplement doses, often 1,000 to 2,000 IU a day. However, a 2010 Institute of Medicine expert panel said that laboratory tests for vitamin D are not standardized and results vary widely among labs. Vitamin D deficiency may be overestimated, the panel concluded, and most American don’t need more than the recommended amount of this nutrient.
How to Boost Vitamin D Levels
To get enough vitamin D from the sun, you need to spend about 5 to 15 minutes in the sun, just three times each week, without sunscreen. Too much sun exposure can cause sunburn and increase the risk of skin cancer, so make sure you limit your exposure. Also, you can expose your arms and legs, but you should always protect your face with sunscreen. If you don’t feel safe in the sun, turn to your diet and a vitamin D supplement to get the vitamin D you need.
Remember that you still need vitamin D in the winter. For many people, especially those in northern climates, it’s hard to get enough sun during those months, and a supplement may be necessary. African-Americans and others with darker skin tones may also be less able to absorb enough sunlight for sufficient vitamin D production from the sun alone.