Vitamin D is one of the vitamins we are starting to hear a lot more about and is only naturally present in a few foods. It is essential for our bone health (preventing osteoporosis) and may protect us against colds and in fighting depression. Vitamin D has other roles in our body as well: cell growth, boosting our immune system, reduction of inflammation, preventing autoimmune disease and cancer, and in regulating mineral levels in our systems.
From the time we are age 1 until we are age 70 – we need about 600 IU (no, silly, not that IU – international units) every day. When we hit 70, increase that to 800 IU every day.
So, what can I do to make sure that I am getting the adequate amount of Vitamin D? Because most of us reading this live in Indiana, we cannot count on getting all of our Vitamin D from the sun as some climates can.
The sunlight spurs our body to make Vitamin D, which is great in the summer if we go outside for 20-25 minutes before we apply our sunscreen as that prevents us from absorbing the rays. Please remember to apply the sunscreen after your exposure time to decrease your chances of skin cancer. FYI – sunlight through a window is not effective. Some folks need to use special UV lamps or bulbs if they have a high risk of Vitamin D deficiency and cannot absorb Vitamin D or cannot get enough in the winter. These lamps do carry some cancer causing risks and protective eyewear is necessary. Please use this only under the direction of your health care provider.
There are some foods that naturally contain Vitamin D. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, eel, or trout are good. 3 oz of salmon = 450 IU. Canned tuna and sardines are less expensive and have a longer shelf life than fresh fish. An 8 oz of fortified milk will have at least 100 IU and 6 oz yogurt = 80 IU. You have to read the labels to make sure your product is fortified. By the way, ice cream and cheese are not fortified with Vitamin D … sorry.
Some types of orange juice (again, read the labels) are fortified and 8 oz can contain 100 IU. Egg yolks are another convenient way and appear in many recipes but you must use the whole egg, and not just the whites. Remember 1 egg = 200 mg cholesterol and the American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 300 mg per day for heart health. Fortified cereal is another choice and can be paired with fortified milk and a glass of fortified orange juice. 1 cup (low calorie/multigrain such as Multigrain Cheerios) fortified cereal + 1 cup fortifies milk + 8oz fortified orange juice = 200 IU and that is just breakfast! While many of us do not love beef liver, 3.5 oz = 50 IU but is high in cholesterol, so choosing the fish option may better.
Supplements are another option and may be taken all at once (unlike calcium supplements) but too much may be toxic. You need to limit daily intake to 4,000 IU from all sources (food, sun and supplements). Always consult with your health care provider before taking any supplement as it may have an adverse reaction with other medications you may be taking especially, steroids, weight-loss medications, seizure and cholesterol lowering medications.
Spring is emerging more every day. Get out there and enjoy it and remember to apply that sunscreen after 20-25 minutes in the sun during the middle of the day.
Jayne Dwyer-Reff, RN,