Vitamin D: How Much You Need And How To Get It

Vitamin D on its own helps the nervous system carry messages from the brain to the various parts of the body. It's also essential to the immune system; your body needs vitamin D when it's faced with potentially harmful bacteria or viruses so that it can fight them.

The most important function of vitamin D is that it is necessary in order for your body to absorb another essential mineral: calcium. It doesn't matter how much calcium you get; if you don't have adequate amounts of vitamin D, it results in mal-absorption and you can still suffer from all the effects of calcium deficiencies: rickets, osteomalacia, and osteoporosis.

Foods Containing Vitamin D

Unfortunately, not a lot of foods naturally contain vitamin D. Your best bets for bringing it into your diet is to choose foods that have been fortified with it. Breakfast, in particular, is a good time of the day for it since most breakfast cereals, milk, and orange juice brands are rich with added vitamin D.

Fish rich in fats, such as tuna and salmon, are among the best natural sources for vitamin D. You can also find it in minimal amounts in beef liver.

Dairy lovers will get some vitamin D from eating eggs (particularly the yolk) and cheese, but in very minute amounts.
As far as the produce section goes, mushrooms are your best bet. Other than that, most fresh produce is a poor source of vitamin D.

Sunlight

One surprising place to get vitamin D is through exposure to sunlight. When direct sunlight hits the skin, it synthesizes its own vitamin D. The problem is that direct sunlight shining on your skin is not the healthiest thing either, since the sun is known to accelerate aging and even cause cancer.

Just as sunscreen, clothing, big hats, umbrellas, and cloudy skies protect you from direct sun rays, they also prevent your body from getting vitamin D. Likewise, those with darker skin and the elderly do not synthesize enough vitamin D through brief exposure to sunlight.

Supplements

It's actually best not to increase sun exposure for the sake of vitamin D, as the damage the sun can do far outweighs the potential good. Other than foods fortified with this nutrient, supplements are your best option.

Children, teens, and adults (including nursing mothers) from ages 1 through 70 should be getting an average of 600 IU (International Units) of Vitamin D per day. Adults over 70 can take as much as 800 IU.

These estimates from the National Institute of Health are based on the consideration that a person is getting limited sun exposure. If you do get exposed to the sun beyond your diet and supplements, don’t worry—you can’t overdose on vitamin D through sunlight, as the body self-regulates synthesis.

Photo: Pexels

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