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Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin or not?

Vitamin D should be at the top of our list of easiest vitamins to achieve our needs!  Vitamin D is unusual in the since that you can get it from the sun as well as food.  But why are 70% of our kids not meeting their needs? Oh, And adults aren’t too far behind!

The benefits of Vitamin D are outstanding!  Vitamin D has been found to reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and many types of cancer.  Vitamin D also plays an important role in the absorption of Calcium and the strength of our bones. 

The body makes Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight for 10 or 15 minutes a day.  With our busy and somewhat sedentary lifestyles, 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight may not be included in our routine.  The other major problem with relying on the sun for our Vitamin D is sunscreen, blocking cancerous rays of sunlight as well as 98% of Vitamin D.  Darker skin and your location from the equator also affect your exposure to the sun’s Vitamin D.   Call your family and friends north of San Francisco to Boston and let them know they are at high risk for Vitamin D deficiency!

Other than the sun, where can you look to meet your Vitamin D needs?  Good sources include cod liver oil (good luck with that!), fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna, and foods fortified with Vitamin D such as milk and juices.  But it may not be that easy.  Researchers have looked at the levels of Vitamin D in the fortified foods and found unbelievable results! 

Of the tested milk fortified with Vitamin D, 15% did not have any detectable Vitamin D and over 50% of the milks tested had less than 80, yes 80% of the level it was supposed to have.  

The current recommendation for Vitamin D is 400 IUs (International Units) per day, of which most of us fall short.  Research is showing that this recommended intake may need to be increased to 800 IUs or more!  Our best bet is to be sure we are drinking our milk every day, getting our sun exposure, and taking a multivitamin to allow ourselves the benefits of Vitamin D.

By Emily Barr, MS, RD, CNSC

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