Where is the sun?? It seems that there has been little sun in our Seattle skies for the past two months that I’ve been here. I am from the DC area so I’m used to a bit more sun than what we have out here. An important health and nutrition concern for people north of San Francisco is Vitamin D. Our bodies need the sun in order to make Vitamin D and with cloudy skies, it’s hard for our bodies to make enough. Vitamin D is found naturally in only a few foods and added to some others; however, it is difficult to get enough Vitamin D solely from the foods that we eat.
Why do we even need Vitamin D? Vitamin D (not technically a vitamin, but rather, a hormone) is needed to absorb calcium, form bone properly, grow cells and maintain immunity1. Vitamin D plays many important roles in the body and is necessary for overall health. We hear a lot about Vitamin D and its role in bone building and calcium absorption. Without Vitamin D, our bones won’t get strong- predisposing us to a higher risk of fractures and even, in some extreme cases, rickets. Vitamin D also helps improve muscle strength, which can help reduce the chance of falling2. The Harvard School of Public Health also cites studies that say Vitamin D may reduce the risk of a heart attack and heart disease, lower risk for certain cancers, and may provide some extra immunity against the common cold. You can read more about the many things Vitamin D is thought to do here: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vitamin-d/index.html#vitamin-d-deficiency-a-global-concern
What are some good food sources?Fortified Milk
Cod Liver Oil
Canned Salmon and Tuna1
It’s important to have fat when taking Vitamin D as it is fat soluble and we cannot absorb it without fat. The food sources listed above all contain fat so you will be able to absorb Vitamin D from them.
Another option for getting Vitamin D is to take a supplement. There is a lot of debate about how much is enough Vitamin D, what is too little and what is too much. The USDA currently recommends 600 IU for men and women ages 1-70 and those who are older than 70 should get 800 IU of Vitamin D a day1. Some studies show that 2000 IU would be more beneficial and provide the benefits previously mentioned2. It is important when picking a Vitamin D supplement to pick one that has Vitamin D3 as D3 is the “chemically indistinguishable from the form of vitamin D produced in the body.” 2 It is important to speak to your doctor before adding a Vitamin D supplement to your daily regimen.
We can also make our own Vitamin D by exposing our skin to sunlight for about 15 minutes 3 times a week, that is, if the sun wants to come out! During these fifteen minutes, it’s important to not be wearing sun screen because sun screen blocks the UV rays our bodies need to make Vitamin D. Of course, we should be wearing sun screen the rest of the time to protect our skin from skin cancer and premature aging.
So, spend some time in the sun, eat good sources of Vitamin D and take a supplement, if needed, to make sure you get enough Vitamin D!
Also, check out the Salmon Patties recipe under our recipes link. It’s a great, inexpensive recipe for Vitamin D. You could even throw in an egg to help bind the patties and get some extra Vitamin D from the yolk. Happy eating!
- - JJanna
1 National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. Jan 11, 2011. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind/
2 Harvard School of Public Health. The Nutrition Source: Vitamin D and Health. Feb 18, 2011. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vitamin-d/index.html#vitamin-d-deficiency-a-global-concern