Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, well really vitamin D is a hormone, not a vitamin. It is naturally present in very few foods, but is added to many others (fortified with vitamin D), and available as a dietary supplement. It is also produced endogenously when ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight strike the skin and trigger vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D is essential for maintenance of bone mineralization through the regulation of calcium and phosphorus homeostasis. Vitamin D also exhibits many non-skeletal effects, particularly on the immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular systems.
You can make your vitamin D the old-fashioned way, by exposing your skin to UVB radiation in sunlight.
It doesn’t take much sun to get your daily requirement, just 10-30 minutes of mid-day sun. However lifestyle changes do not make this easy. But people living in the northern part of the US (roughly an imaginary line between Philadelphia and San Francisco) — can’t get enough UVB in winter to do the trick. And many others will find it all too easy to overdose on UVB, increasing their risk of malignant melanomas and other skin cancers, as well as wrinkles and premature skin aging. All in all, most doctors recommend avoiding sunlight (wearing sunscreen) and getting vitamin D by mouth.
The amount of vitamin D your skin makes depends on many factors, including the time of day, season, latitude and your skin pigmentation. Depending on where you live and your lifestyle, production might decrease or be completely absent during the winter months. Sunscreen, while important to prevent skin cancer, also can decrease production.
Taking a Vitamin D supplement is one option. The Endocrine Society states, for example, that to maintain serum 25(OH)D levels above 75 nmol/L (30 ng/mL), adults might need 1,500–2,000 IU/day of supplemental vitamin D, and children and adolescents might need at least 1,000 IU/day. Vitamin D tablets are small and can be swallowed easily.
In addition to supplementing with vitamin D, these are a few more ways to naturally incorporate the vitamin into your day.
Sun exposure is the vitamin’s best natural source because UV rays from the sun trigger the production of vitamin D in your skin. An initial exposure of skin to sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes two times a week will provide you with adequate time for vitamin D synthesis, but then should be followed by application of a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or greater.
>>Fish such as salmon and sardines, and fish oils, such as cod liver and krill, offer good amounts of vitamin D3 and omega-3s. The more the fish feed on plankton, the higher its vitamin D3 potential.
>>Certain mushrooms are the only foods in the produce aisle that naturally contain vitamin D2. Incorporate them into your diet regularly to reap their benefits.
>Eggs are another good source of vitamin D. A serving of two eggs provides 82% of the recommended dietary intake. Eggs are one of the highest food sources of vitamin D.
As our habits change, most of us cannot rely on our bodies to produce vitamin D the old-fashioned way. Instead, we increasingly depend on artificially fortified foods and pills to provide this vital nutrient. If your doctor suspects you’re not getting enough vitamin D, a simple blood test can check the levels of this vitamin in your blood.
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