by Valerie Demetros
Unlike vitamins we get through the foods we eat, vitamin D is essentially produced through sun exposure. But simply being outdoors doesn’t mean you’re getting sufficient amounts.
Especially as the weather turns cooler, you tend to spend more time indoors. Many people are deficient regardless of their sun exposure. One study found that 41.6% of adults in the United States have insufficient vitamin D levels.
Technically, rather than being a true vitamin, vitamin D is actually a prohormone. And unlike vitamins that need to be consumed, your body can produce vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight.
Due to its subtle symptoms, people often don’t realize they are vitamin D deficient. Some symptoms include fatigue, trouble sleeping, depression, hair loss and loss of appetite.
A 2018 review of existing medical research suggested that vitamin D even had a protective effect against the influenza virus. Vitamin D supports your immune system, lung function and cardiovascular health.
New research uncovered a link between vitamin D and muscle function, including recovery from daily activities and exercise. That’s why low levels of vitamin D can cause fatigue.
A 2012 study also showed that vitamin D helped lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. Another study found that premenopausal women with a vitamin D deficiency had increased risk for high blood pressure — even 15 years later.
For improved weight-loss success, consider supplementing with vitamin D. A study at the University of Minnesota found that higher levels of the vitamin during a low-calorie diet improved weight-loss.
Vitamin D also helps your body absorb calcium, which supports strong yet flexible bones, preventing brittleness and bone damage. Even with healthy amounts of calcium, your body can’t use it without adequate vitamin D levels.
Numerous studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with higher levels of inflammatory biomarkers. This leads to increased risk of chronic inflammation.
The National Institutes of Health suggests a daily amount of at least 600 IU for those over the age of 1. However, if you’re over 70 aim for 800 IU. Also, try to get up to 30 minutes of sunlight a few times each week. Of course, this is difficult when days are shorter and temperatures are cooler.
Now that you know how much you need, you just need to know where to find it.
Fortified milk has added vitamins (A and D3) to support vitamin D intake, as well as some alternatives like soy milk, almond milk and oat milk.
Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are prime sources of vitamin D and also contain omega-3s and protein.
Eggs contain vitamin D, but remember to include the entire egg since the vitamin D is in the yolk.
Certain mushrooms (like oyster, chantarelles and morels) can be loaded with vitamin D.
Additional sources include beef liver, cheese and some fortified cereals, orange juice and yogurt.