Among the vitamins, vitamin D is pretty special.
And because we get it primarily from the sun, many of us have a hard time getting enough and are deficient.
Today let’s talk about how much of this critical fat-soluble vitamin we need and how you can get enough.
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 and teeth. Vitamin D can also help with immune function, cellular growth and help to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal affective disorder.
- Low vitamin D levels can lead to:
- Loss of muscle mass and strength over time
- Higher risk for certain cancers
- Decreased immune function
- Higher blood pressure
- The development of neurological disorders, diabetes and bone diseases
Health Canada’s daily recommended intakes (RDAs) for vitamin D, updated in 2011, are 400 IU for infants, 600 IU for children aged one to adults aged 70, and 800 IU for adults over 70. Health Canada’s safe upper limit is 4,000 IU per day.
The three ways to get vitamin D are exposure to the sun, consuming vitamin D containing food, and through supplements.
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?
The other thing to know is that even if you are getting mega doses from the sun, once your levels reach a certain number, any excess is inactivated. Also you can store some reserves of vitamin D, but they’ll only last a few weeks.
How can I get enough vitamin D from food?
Vitamin D is naturally found in some foods like fatty fish, liver and egg yolks but in very small quantities. Some foods are “fortified” (which means “added to”) 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.
Check out the salmon recipe below for an extra doe of vitamin D.
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 you get the minimum amount of vitamin D, plus a bit extra.
But before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure 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.
As mentioned, 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.
If you’re concerned, the best thing to do is to ask your healthcare professional to do a blood test and then recommend if a supplement is right for you and how much to take.
Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin which many people are deficient in. Low levels can lead to varying degrees of health implications.
There are three ways to get enough vitamin D: sun exposure, through certain foods, and in supplements. Many people require a combination of the three to get adequate amounts.
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.
Vitamin D Recipe – Lemony Dill Broiled Salmon
4 wild salmon fillets
1 bunch asparagus
8 round slices of fresh lemon
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. Top each fillet with 2 slices of lemon and drizzle with olive oil.
Broil for 8-10 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Serve & enjoy with a seasonal salad.
Over to you. Have you ever had your vitamin D levels checked? How do you make sure you have enough? Please share your thoughts on vitamin D in the comments below.