You’ve heard it many times before: Don’t forget to take your vitamins! If you’re anything like us, you’ve been taking them daily since you were a kid (not always willingly). But the question still remains – are you taking the right ones? Recent CDC statistics show that roughly ⅓ of Americans are Vitamin D deficient or at risk of being so. Since the USDA largely attributes a strong link between improper diet and lack of nutrition education, we’re here to help you get your “nutra-knowledge” on. Check it out.
Why You Need It
Vitamin D plays an important role in a wide variety of functions in your body, including immune response, muscle function and brain development, and acts as a hormone to regulate things like blood pressure and kidney function.
Vitamin D is also critical for proper calcium absorption. Since calcium is an important component of bones, low vitamin D levels can cause soft bone syndromes. So if you’re taking a calcium supplement, but you don’t keep an eye on your vitamin D levels, you’re only going halfway. (*Bonus tip: Many supplement manufacturers have picked up on this, so make sure to select a variety that includes vitamin D in its formula.) And just as we mentioned in our electrolytes post, muscle cramps can be due to inadequate calcium levels, although it’s possible they’re just an indication of a larger vitamin D issue.
How to Get It
Getting your daily dose of vitamin D can be as easy as stepping outside. People with fair skin can get 100% of their daily value just by exposing their face to sunlight for a measly 15 minutes, but people with darker skin require extra time due to the UV-blocking skin compound called melanin (the same compound produced while you tan with the intention of protecting your skin cells). Exposure times also increase with shade, time of day, or SPF levels.
If you’re especially UV conscious, you can get vitamin D from your diet, although it’s not found in as many foods as other vitamins. It’s mostly found in fish products like cod liver oil (which you can get in supplement form, a great option), salmon and swordfish, all of which will get you over 100% of your DV. Even canned tuna provides just under 50%.
Not a fish enthusiast? Luckily the food industry picked up on that possibility quite a while ago. Dairy products are often fortified with vitamin D to increase the absorption of the naturally occurring calcium they contain, and orange juice is often fortified with both. And although it might be tempting to toss egg yolks and make an omelet with only the whites, the yolk is where you’ll find 10% of your daily value. To stay on the safe side, consider taking a daily supplement to ensure adequate intake.
Maximize Your Benefit
Vitamin D can only be absorbed into the bloodstream in the presence of fat, so if you’re getting your vitamin D from non-fat dairy products or OJ, make sure you consume them alongside a source of fat to maximize absorption such as steak or eggs. However, if you are vegetarian or vegan, you can consider adding supplements that help absorb the vitamin D while adding to it, such as fish oil.
Now you’re all set to reap the wonderful benefits of filling up on vitamin D!