Sun, sun, sun. Who doesn’t like the sun? During the summer months, the sun shines brighter and daylight hours are longer. As a result, we find ourselves feeling more joyful and energized. We spend more time outside walking, running, swimming or sneaking in all-day beach excursions.
Sounds great, right? But, do you know why this time in the sunshine is so enjoyable and important to us? Well, because the sun gives us a vitamin called vitamin D, which is really important for bone health, maintaining strong teeth, supporting the immune system, and possibly protecting against certain cancers, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
The problem is… What should we do in the winter when we hardly see the sun any sun? We’ll get into that.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in very few foods, added to others (like milk and orange juice), and available as a dietary supplement. This vitamin is also produced by the body when ultraviolet rays from the sun strike your skin, triggering vitamin D synthesis. It’s really important for us to consume vitamin D in some way — sun, foods, or supplements — because, as we said above, it helps keep bones strong, aids in fighting infections, and keeps our muscles and organs in tip-top shape.
In which foods do we find vitamin D
In which foods can we find vitamin D? There are a few! We can find it in fatty fish like the tuna fish, sardines, mackerel, swordfish, and salmon. As for the cook or preparation of the fish, it doesn’t matter which you choose (raw, smoked, seared, baked, etc.). Vitamin D is also present in cheese, egg yolks, mushrooms, and in dairy milk products. Finally, vitamin D is often added as a fortified ingredient in orange juices and cereals.
If you’re following a vegan or plant-based diet, vitamin D is quite difficult to get from foods. We suggest that you take a vitamin D supplement or multivitamin that contains your daily dose of vitamin D.
How much vitamin D do we need?
There are a lot of arguments around the question of how much vitamin D we need because of certain variables. For example, some parts of the world get less sunlight than others. Also, vitamin D needs vary by age and weight. Here’s the breakdown:
- Birth to 12 months: 400 IU
- 1-13 years: 600 IU
- Teens and adults 14-70 years: 600 IU
- 71+ years: 800 IU
- Pregnant/breastfeeding women: Up to 4,000 IU according to recent studies
Vitamin D deficiency symptoms
There are a few of symptoms that signal you might need more vitamin D but, as you’ll notice, they are common symptoms that could be attributed to a number of deficiencies or ailments. Here they are:
- You’re sick more often
- You’re more tired than the usual
- You feel pain in the bones, back and in the muscles
- You experience hair loss
- You notice that bruises and scratches heal slowly
- Your mood is glum
What can vitamin D deficiency lead to?
In addition to some of the unfavorable symptoms above, Vitamin D deficiency can cause a number of ailments. For example, if the children don´t get enough vitamin D it could lead to a disease called rickets. Rickets is when bones become soft and bend — something children are super susceptible to as their bodies develop. In adults, a lack of vitamin D causes osteomalacia. Osteomalacia is when you feel pain in the bones because your bones and muscles have weakened. With osteomalacia, adults might also experience frequent fractures.
Some common risk factors for vitamin D deficiency
So, who is most likely to be vitamin D deficient? Well, if you live somewhere far from the equator with limited sun exposure, you’re at risk of being vitamin D deficient. Of course, you’re also at risk if you live in a sunny location but are inside most of the day.
Having darker skin is also a risk factor for vitamin D deficiency since the body can’t absorb vitamin D from the sun as easily. Being elderly or overweight are additional risk factors. The final risk factor we’ll mention is if you’re someone who doesn’t consume enough vitamin d food sources like fish or dairy.
To make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D, we recommend getting out for a walk when it’s sunny. We like to take our lunch breaks outdoors or take the long way to work for extra rays (and steps). Need more ideas? You can go out in the garden when you want to read a book. If you have kids, you can play outdoor games or try picnicking on weekends. If you are a kid, then go outside with friends instead of going to the mall or cinema.
If you live in a sometimes dreary place (like 8fit HQ in Berlin), make sure you’re eating enough vitamin D-rich foods. And, if you’re not, consider taking a natural vitamin D supplement — just be sure to combine it with healthy fats to boost absorption power.
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