With the onset of winter, getting enough Vitamin D can be a little more difficult than in the summer.
If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know that I believe vitamins are super-important for health.
But did you know that vitamin D is extra special?
Here’s why. It’s very difficult to get enough vitamin D; therefore, it is a very common deficiency.
So, let’s talk about how much of this critical fat-soluble vitamin we need, and how you can get enough. The three ways to get vitamin D are exposure to the sun, consuming vitamin D containing food, and through supplements.
Why is vitamin D important, and how much do we need?
Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our food and acts like a hormone to help us build strong bones. Vitamin D can also help with immune function, cellular growth, and help to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal affective disorder (also known as SAD).
Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to bone diseases like osteomalacia, and Inadequate amounts can also increase your risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, and even death.
What I’ve found is that most medical doctors say that the “official” minimum amount to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU. However , many experts and colleagues in my field think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health.
To ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D, you can implement any combination of the three sources mentioned above on a weekly basis.
How can I get enough vitamin D from the sun?
Your skin makes vitamin D when it’s exposed to the sun; that’s why it’s referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.”How much vitamin D your skin makes depends on many things. Location, season, clouds, clothing, all affect the amount of D your skin can produce from the sun. One standard recommendation is to get about 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. to the face, arms, legs, or back. This should be done without sunscreen, at least twice a week. Of course, we should always avoid sunburns and of course in some locations (and seasons of the year) it’s not easy to get sun exposure. So, how can we get enough vitamin D in other ways?
How can I get enough vitamin D from food?
Vitamin D is naturally found in fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. Some mushrooms make D when they’re exposed to the sun.
Some foods are “fortified” (which means the vitamin has been added) with vitamin D. These include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. It will say on the label how much D has been added per serving.
Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can increase absorption of it from your food if you eat it with some fat (healthy fat, of course). Between sun exposure and food, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 400 IU each day; this is why D supplements are quite popular.
How can I get enough vitamin D from supplements?
It’s easy enough to just “pop a pill” or take some cod liver oil (which also contains vitamin A). Either of these can ensure that you get the minimum amount of vitamin D, plus a bit extra.
However, before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure you check that it won’t interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking. Always read your labels, and ask a healthcare professional for advice.
PLEASE NOTE: Do not take more than the suggested dosage on the label of any vitamin D supplement, except under medical care.
The maximum amount recommended (for the general population) is 4,000 IU/day. Too much vitamin D can raise your blood levels of calcium (to an unsafe level), and this can affect your heart and kidneys.
The best thing, if you’re concerned, is to ask your healthcare professional to do a blood test and make a recommendation about how much vitamin in supplement form is right for you. Your healthcare practitioner may recommend higher amounts of vitamin D supplementation for a short time while under their care.
I’ve given you some ideas how you can get the minimum 400-600 IU or vitamin D daily.
If you’re concerned, it’s best to request a blood test that tests your vitamin D levels to be sure what’s right for you. Always take supplements as directed.
Recipe (vitamin D): Parchment Salmon with Lemon & Dill
- 4 wild salmon fillets
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- 1/4 black pepper
- fresh dill (can substitute with 1/4 tsp. dried dill if no fresh available)
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- Preheat the oven broiler and raise the oven rack. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet and place fish on top, skin-side down.
- Sprinkle the fish with sea salt, pepper, parsley, and dill. Drizzle with olive oil.
- Broil for 8-10 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork.
- Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Grill some asparagus alongside the salmon and serve with a side of rice or quinoa.