Our bodies need plenty of different vitamins and minerals each day in order to function properly. A lack of any of these essential nutrients can cause a deficiency that affects the function of organs, including the brain. It is important to ensure that you are getting every nutrient you need each day so you can keep your body healthy.
One important vitamin your body needs is vitamin D. Find out more about what this vitamin does in your body, including what happens when you are deficient in it. In addition, find out how you can get more vitamin D through the foods you eat, along with examples of the different foods that are a good source of vitamin D.
What Is Vitamin D?
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Vitamin D is often associated with sunshine because the body can produce it simply by exposing yourself to the sun. You can also consume this vitamin through foods or supplements. Typically, vitamins are nutrients our bodies cannot make, but vitamin D is different. That is why it is not an actual vitamin as much as it is a pro-hormone.
Despite the fact that the body can make vitamin D, it is a common deficiency in many parts of the world. Deficiencies can be more prevalent in areas without much sunshine and during the winter months. In general, it only takes about 10 to 30 minutes per week of sunlight exposure to get all the vitamin D the body needs. Of course, this is exposure on bare skin without sunscreen, which goes against most medical recommendations of always wearing sunscreen when in the sun.
Furthermore, vitamin D breaks down pretty fast in the body. So, you need to keep replenishing it by getting it through foods, supplements or sun exposure.
Why You Need Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays many roles. It helps you to absorb calcium and aids in ensuring bones get the mineralization they need to stay strong and healthy. It plays a part in the bone growth and helps prevent bone diseases, such as osteoporosis and rickets.
It also helps with cell growth and function. It plays a role in your immune system as well. In addition, it may help prevent diabetes because it helps with insulin regulation, and it may help keep your cardiovascular system functioning properly. It is also thought that vitamin D can help prevent cancer and multiple sclerosis.
Furthermore, vitamin D may also help with healthy pregnancy. It can help to lower the risks of needed a c-section and reduce the chances of developing preeclampsia. Women who do not get enough vitamin D may also have more issues with bacterial vaginosis and a higher risk of developing gestational diabetes. It is also thought that a vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy could also lead to an increased risk of the baby developing food allergies.
Finally, not getting enough vitamin D could increase your risk for other diseases, such as:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Rheumatoid arthritis
It is clear that you should be concerned about getting enough vitamin D, especially if you do not spend much time outside in the sun on a regular basis. Of course, the amount of vitamin D each person needs varies.
Daily Vitamin D Requirements
When thinking about the daily vitamin D needs, you will see figures represented as either micrograms or International Units. In this case, one microgram is equal to 40 International Units. The number of mcg or IU you need depends on your age. The requirements are as follows:
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women, adults under 70 and children ages 1-18 need 15 mcg or 600 IU
- Adults over the age of 70 need 20 mcg or 800 IU
- Children from birth to 12 months need 10 mcg or 400 IU
These are daily recommendations and are just a guideline. They are generally going to be correct for healthy individuals, but you may want to discuss it with your doctor to verify the amount of vitamin D you need. You may also check our Family Fitness Blog: The Family That Plays Together Stays Healthy Together
5 Sources of Vitamin D
While you’ve already learned that one of the best and most efficient ways to get enough vitamin D is through exposure to the sun, sometimes this is not an option. This is especially true when you live somewhere that does not get a lot of suns or if you are sensitive to the sun and cannot go even five minutes without sunscreen. In situations where you simply cannot get the vitamin D you need from the sun, you may want to seek out other sources.
Vitamin D is present in many food products. In fact, you may notice that some food items are vitamin D-fortified. This just means it has been added to the food. Let’s take a look at some foods that are good sources of vitamin D that you may want to add to your diet. We’ve put them into categories based on the types of foods they are.
Fish and fish products
Fish and fish products are a good source of vitamin D and actually offer a huge amount of the vitamin. If you eat a lot of fish, then you probably do not lack in vitamin D. Here is a look at the content in certain fish and fish products:
- Cod liver oil: 1,360 IU in 1 tablespoon
- Herring: 1,056 IU in 4 ounces
- Salmon: 596 IU in 4 ounces
- Sardines: 336 IU in 4 ounces
- Swordfish: 941 IU in 4 ounces
- Tuna: 68 IU in 3 ounces
- Mackerel: 547 IU in 3 ounces
Dairy foods provide a nice amount of vitamin D because the vitamin is found naturally in cow’s milk. Here’s a look at some dairy foods you may want to add to your diet:
- Whole milk: 40 IU in 1 cup
- Yogurt: 100 IU in 1 cup
- Cheese: 40 IU in 1 slice
Animal products are a good source of vitamin D
Beyond dairy, some other animal products also contain good amounts of vitamin D. These include the following:
- Eggs: 44 IU in 1 large, whole
- Beef liver: 42 IU in 3 ounces
There are many food items that regularly have vitamin D added to them. Often this is added because the food item is a substitute for a product that naturally contains the vitamin. It may also be a public health move to help ensure the population does not have a vitamin D deficiency. Whatever the reason, here are some foods that are typically fortified with vitamin D:
- Almond milk: 80-100 IU in 6 ounces
- Orange juice: 100 IU in 1 cup
- Cereal: 137 IU in 1 cup
- Oatmeal: 100 IU in 1 cup
Do note that because the vitamin is added to these products, the amount in each one may vary. Always look at the label to see exactly how much a product contains.
Most vegetables do not contain any vitamin D, but mushrooms are unique. Not only do they serve as a source of this vitamin, but the more sunlight exposure, the more vitamin D it contains. So, keep that in mind when consulting this list because the amounts listed are very general in nature.
- Maitake: 786 IU in 1 cup
- Portobello: 634 IU in 1 cup
- Chanterelle: 114 IU in 1 cup
In addition, these numbers are for raw mushrooms. When cooked, the amount of vitamin D is reduced.
Your body needs a good source of vitamin D. For most people, there is little concern about not getting enough because they get it from sunlight exposure. The sun’s UV light helps the body create the vitamin. Your exposure to the sun without wearing sunscreen helps you naturally make the vitamin. All it takes is as little as five minutes of exposure each day.
However, there are many people who do not get the amount of sun exposure needed. They need to ensure they get vitamin D through the foods that they eat. Unfortunately, many of the foods high in the vitamin are not part of regular diets. These foods include fish, dairy, and some mushrooms. There are a couple of animal products that contain it. One being eggs, which is a way many people get the vitamin since these are commonly consumed items, but the other is beef liver, which is not so often found on dinner plates. Furthermore, fish are one of the best food sources, but people just don’t eat it enough. Then with dairy, intolerance issues and allergies mean a lot of people stay away from these foods. That is why there are some foods fortified with the vitamin in an attempt to help ensure people are not deficient.
Not having enough vitamin D can lead to health issues. Not to mention that it may also reduce the effectiveness of your immune system. As you can see, it is important to monitor your vitamin D intake if you do not get exposure to the sun on a regular basis or if you are someone who always follows strict sunscreen rules. All it takes is a little conscious effort to make sure you are getting the amount of the vitamin you need to stay healthy. It doesn’t mean that you are healthy by eating foods rich in Vitamin D, you should also do some daily workout to keep the body in shape. Here is a Simple Beginner Workout Routine for you and some work out apps to Boost Your Fitness Lifestyle.
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