Health Benefits of Vitamin D

Vitamin D, also known as the “vitamin of sunshine,” is an extremely important nutrient that contributes to your overall health and wellness. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium, which ultimately leads to health benefits and improves the function of your bones, brain, cardiovascular and immune systems, intestines, muscles, and your pancreas! According to an article published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), vitamin D has been proven to fight against many conditions and diseases, including:

  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Cancer
  • Depression
  • Falls and Fractures
  • Heart Disease
  • Influenza
  • Type-2 diabetes

Almost 50% of the population worldwide is deficient in vitamin D and the NCBI suggests that we may need even more of this essential nutrient than what is currently recommended to prevent chronic disease. While vitamin D is most commonly absorbed through the skin from exposure to sunlight, there is hope for individuals who have conditions that make sitting outside impossible, live in sun-deficit climates, or take certain medications.

How Can I get More Vitamin D?

Vitamin D can be consumed by eating a variety of foods such as cheese, eggs, fortified products, mushrooms, and seafood. More specifically:

  • Cheeses such as Cheddar, Parmesan, and Swiss are the most vitamin-D dense.
  • One large egg (with the yolk) has 4% of your daily value.
  • Cereal, milk, orange juice, soy beverage, tofu, and yogurt are just a few of the food types that can have vitamin D added to them. Check the label and ensure they are “fortified.”
  • Some mushroom growers produce special Portobello mushrooms that have been exposed to a flash of UV light to increase their amount of Vitamin D.
  • Fish, oysters, shrimp, salmon (including the canned variety) are the top of the list for naturally occurring vitamin D. Cod, halibut, sardines, and tuna are other great fish chalked full of vitamin D.

Supplements are also a good way to consume your daily vitamin requirements. Taking a supplement that contains 400 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D each day, in conjunction with eating nutrient-rich foods will help you reach your daily target!

Another way to increase your vitamin D intake, exposure to sunlight still remains the most effective way to reach your body’s daily requirements. Midday is the best time to get vitamin D, as the sun is at its highest point and your body may manufacture it most efficiently around that time of day. For more people, just 10-15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to your abdomen, arms, back, and legs is enough to meet your daily needs.

According to Dr. Michael Holick, a professor of biophysics, medicine and physiology at the Boston University Medical Campus, practicing “sensible sun exposure” is safe, does not put you at risk for developing melanoma or other skin cancers and most importantly, should never result in a burn. Sensible sun exposure includes protecting the most sun-exposed parts of your body such your face and the top of your ears and never spending more than 15-minutes in the sun without sun protection, such as SPF-30 and a protective hat.

How do you get more vitamin D to boost your health? Through foods, supplements, or sun exposure?