With the shorter, darker days of winter upon us, you've probably been hearing more about Vitamin D in the news lately. So what's the deal? How much, if any, do you need and how can you get it? Our team did some investigating to tell you the deal about D.
Vitamin D is important to your body for a variety of reasons. It's perhaps best known for its role in supporting your bones. Vitamin D aids your body in absorbing the calcium and phosphorus that your bones need. D deficiencies are more common among people over age 50, those who get little sun exposure, vegans, and people who are lactose intolerant. The Institute of Medicine recommends 200 international units of D daily for people under age 50; 400IU for those 51-70; and 600IU for those 70+. Not sure if you're getting enough Vitamin D? Always ask your doctor before starting any new supplement regimen.
News stories about vitamin D increase during the shorter days of winter because one of the best and easiest sources of vitamin D is natural sunlight. When it gets dark and cold, our likelihood of being in direct sunlight goes down as we drive whenever possible and race back inside for warmth. However, getting vitamin D from sunlight doesn't mean you need to freeze out in the cold all day! Ten to fifteen minutes of daily sun exposure (without sunscreen) will typically provide you with the vitamin D you need. Take a morning or lunchtime walk in order to fit in your daily sunlight quota. Don't put it off until later as it might be dark already by the time you remember!
Vitamin D can also be found naturally or is fortified in many of the foods we eat. Good sources include dairy products like milk, eggs, cheese, and butter and many types of fish including salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. Some other varieties of food are now fortified with D including some orange juice and breakfast cereals. Need an extra incentive to pick Vitamin D-rich foods? Low levels of D may make you more susceptible to catching the common cold. So drink your milk, dine on fish, and get some sun!