When we think of “vitamins,” we know they’re super-important for health.
But vitamin D is special. Vitamin D is the number one vitamin essential for a strong immune system!
Never has there been a more important time than NOW to ensure our immune system is fighting fit! And the biggest Public Health message we are NOT hearing is to make sure you are getting enough of this immune-supporting Vitamin!
It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D; vitamin D is, therefore, a very common deficiency; especially for those of us who live in the northern hemisphere from October through May!
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 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?
Most of us already know that Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our food and acts like a hormone to help us build strong bones. But the biggest reason you should be focusing on your Vitamin D levels is to help support your immune function, cellular growth, and help to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal affective disorder.
In the winter of 2020/2021, levels of depression and anxiety have sky-rocked as a result of having to isolate and reduce social contact due to the pandemic. Even without a pandemic, the lack of sunlight poses a significant risk to our Vitamin D levels during the winter months so it’s not surprising that most people have found this winter to be the hardest yet, both physically and mentally.
In addition to making you more susceptible to viral infections such as the Coronavirus, inadequate vitamin D can also increase your risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, and even death. The “official” minimum amount of vitamin D to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU. Many experts think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health. I personally take 2,000-3,000 IU’s every day as a supplement during the winter months however I know I suffer from Vitamin D deficiency every winter and have been advised to do this by my Naturopathic Doctor. But in the summer, I’m outside every chance I get getting natural Vitamin D from the sun!
To ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D, you can implement any combination of the three vitamin D 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, the amount of sunscreen you put on, all affect the amount of vitamin 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 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 such as sardines, mackerel, herring and salmon, liver, and egg yolks. Some mushrooms also make vitamin D when they’re exposed to the sun.
Some foods are “fortified” with Vitamin D (which means vitamin D has been added). These include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. It will say on the label how much vitamin 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 lack of sun exposure and limited food options that people actually enjoy, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 1,000 IU of vitamin D each day. This is why vitamin 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. Either of these can ensure that you get the minimum amount of vitamin D, plus a bit extra.
But 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. 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.
The Problem with Obesity
It is worth noting that the obesity pandemic that only continues to get worse year on year is another reason why sufficient Vitamin D levels are such a growing concern.
Because Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, this means Vitamin D will seek out fat in the body. The more overweight a person is, the higher chance that Vitamin D will be absorbed into fat cells and NOT absorbed into blood circulation. When Vitamin D levels are low in the blood, this results in a Vitamin D deficiency.
If you needed one more reason to focus on achieving a healthy weight loss, this should definitely be it!
Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin which many people have a hard time maintaining adequate levels of. There are three ways to get enough vitamin D: sun exposure, through certain foods, and in supplements.
I’ve given you some ideas how you can get the recommended minimum 1000 IU of 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.
I’m going to leave you now with a Vitamin-D rich, tasty dinner recipe….but first….
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Ok, now back to that recipe!….
Recipe (vitamin D): Super-Simple Grilled Salmon
4 wild salmon fillets
1 bunch asparagus
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 black pepper
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp. dried dill
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. Surround with a single layer of asparagus.
Sprinkle the fish and asparagus 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: Serve with a side of rice or quinoa.