What's the deal with Vitamin D?
By Brad Beatty, Dietetic Intern
With the start of fall on the horizon the days are getting shorter, temperatures colder, and the amount of time spent outdoors is slowly decreasing. Along with the decreasing temperatures and sunlight is decreasing amounts of vitamin D. Low amounts of vitamin D affects nearly 50% of the population. Without it, important nutrients like calcium and phosphorus cannot be absorbed. This can have negative effects on health, especially in women, as these nutrients are especially important for preventing osteoporosis.
So, why does this happen? Vitamin D is unique because it can be synthesized in the skin when exposed to sunlight. While time of year, location, and skin pigment all affect the bodies ability to create vitamin D from sunlight, it is generally recommended to get 10-20 minutes of sun exposure a day to help reach vitamin D requirements in the spring/summer. So what do we do in the cooler months?
Use your diet! While it’s important to eat a diet rich in vitamin D year round, it becomes especially important during the fall and winter months when sun exposure decreases. With this said, vitamin D can be difficult to get in you diet if you don’t include the right foods. Below are some foods that can help you get enough vitamin D.
Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, and trout are all excellent sources of vitamin D. In addition, fatty fish contain omega fatty acids that have other benefits, especially in regards to heart health. Trying to get 1-2 servings of fatty fish per week can assure that you get enough vitamin D in your diet.
Since vitamin D is only available in small amounts in most foods, different products are often fortified with it, meaning the manufacturers will add it in. Some of these fortified products include: milk/dairy, orange juice, and some cereals. Dairy includes foods like milk, yogurt, and cheese. These foods are also high in calcium, phosphorus, and protein—all of which are important for the prevention of osteoporosis. By including 2-3 servings of dairy a day, you can assure there are enough of these nutrients in your diet. As for cereals and orange juice, if these are things you consume in your diet look for options that are fortified with vitamin D.
As fall approaches and time in the sun decreases, keep in mind some of these foods to help assure you are able to get an adequate intake of vitamin D.