Vitamin D – “The Sunshine” Vitamin

As we move into colder, gloomier weather, I thought I would try to bring a ray of sunshine to my post. Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” because the body makes vitamin D from exposure to the sun. However, as many as 90% of adults in the United States are vitamin D deficient.  You have a great chance for D deficiency if you spend most of your time indoors,  wear sunscreen when outdoors,  live in northern regions,  are overweight and/or aging.  Most of us fall into at least one of these categories. This means people are supplementing with vitamin D more now than ever.  So I thought I would give some guidance around Vitamin D deficiency, the risks, symptoms, sources of Vitamin D, and supplementation.

Why is vitamin D important?  Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver and fatty tissue in the body.   D helps with calcium absorption and it affects skeletal structure, blood pressure, immunity, mood, sleep, brain function and helps protect against some cancers.  As you can see, it is a pretty important vitamin.

The symptoms associated with vitamin D deficiency are non-specific and can be subtle, often getting overlooked as the cause.  Here are the most common symptoms of vitamin D deficiency:

  1. Getting sick or infections often
  2. Feeling fatigued and tired
  3. Bone and back pain
  4. Depression
  5. Slow wound healing
  6. Bone loss
  7. Hair loss
  8. Muscle pain

These symptoms can be due to many other things too, but having vitamin D blood levels checked by your doctor is a simple way to rule a deficiency out.

There are other ways besides the sun to get more of this important vitamin.  It is found naturally in small amounts in some foods.  The best sources are fatty fish (such as halibut, salmon, swordfish, sardines), egg yolk, cod liver oil and raw milk.  It is fortified in pasteurized milk, some milk alternatives and cereal. Supplementing with vitamin D supplements may be necessary to get enough.

Vitamin D supplements come in two forms, D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol).  D3 is much better absorbed and beneficial, so choose D3 when possible.

If you suspect a deficiency, it is important to see your doctor.  They can draw blood to determine your level and prescribe a supplement if necessary. Optimally, you want your level to be between 50-70ng/mL.  Talk with your doctor about how much to  take.  The RDA is 600 IU per day for adults, but most doctors consider that too low and recommend 2000 IU per day.  If you are overweight, it may take more to get your levels up.  Since D is stored in fat, if you have excess fat, the body tends to store more and it can difficult to access the D stored.   Also, since vitamin D is fat soluble,  make sure you take vitamin D supplements with food that has some fat in it, your body will absorb it better.

Vitamin D plays many vital roles in our well-being. I recommend everyone have their D levels checked.  It is simple and easy to make changes to your lifestyle, diet, and supplementing if needed to replenish this important vitamin.

Here’s a delicious and simple salmon recipe that will help you get some vitamin D and heart-healthy fats.

Baked Dijon Salmon

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 4 (4 ounce) fillets salmon
  • 3 tablespoons prepared Dijon-style mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Italian-style dry bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted or olive oil

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a shallow baking pan with aluminum foil.
  2. Place salmon skin-side down on foil. Spread a thin layer of mustard on the top of each fillet, and season with salt and pepper. Top with bread crumbs, then drizzle with melted butter.
  3. Bake  for 15 minutes, or until salmon flakes easily with a fork.

Nutrition

Amount per serving (4 total)

  • Calories: 331 kcal
  • Fat: 21.5 g 
  • Carbs: 7.5g
  • Protein: 25 g

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