Soak In the Sun and Vitamin D
Vitamin D might be known as the “sunshine vitamin,” but our bodies need it year-round, even when the sun isn’t shining. Many people find it’s easier to get enough when the weather is warmer and nicer. Fortunately, you can also find good sources of vitamin D at the grocery store since it can be added to foods such as cereal or juice. Read on to learn what vitamin D is, how it helps the body, and how to make sure you’re getting enough.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is one of the thirteen essential vitamins that the body needs to function properly. It’s unique among the vitamins because few foods have much natural vitamin D. Instead, your body produces the vitamin when your sun is exposed to UVB radiation from the sun!
Why is Vitamin D Important?
Your body needs vitamin D for many different biological processes, from gene expression to immune function. Your bones need vitamin D to stay strong. It helps the gut absorb calcium, another key nutrient for bone health, from the foods you eat. Together, vitamin D and calcium keep our bones strong and dense. A deficiency in vitamin D puts you at risk for early-onset osteoporosis, a condition where bones become weak and brittle.
Where Can I Find Vitamin D?
Many people have started taking vitamin D supplements, but this should only be done after consulting a doctor or Registered Dietitian. Vitamin D is fat-soluble, which means that it can build up in your tissue over time if you’re getting too much of it. Extra is stored in the body instead of removed through metabolism like with water-soluble vitamins. This means very high levels of fat-soluble vitamins can be toxic. Fun fact: you can’t get too much vitamin D just from sunlight! Your body regulates production of vitamin D, meaning that it knows not to make any if it already has enough stored.
Roughly 15 minutes of sun exposure a couple times a week is enough time for most people to produce the vitamin D needed to stay healthy. You should always wear sunscreen when spending time in direct sunlight. This will impact how much vitamin D is produced, but it’s unlikely that it would lead to a deficiency. If you get little sun exposure, you can still get vitamin D through what you eat.
Foods that naturally contain some vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish like salmon and tuna
- Egg yolks
- Beef liver
- Cheese (small amounts of vitamin D)
Foods that have been fortified with vitamin D (meaning foods that vitamin D has been added to) include:
- Orange juice
- Soy milk
- Breakfast cereals
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