Vitamin D Deficiency: Frequently Asked Questions
The end of summer might not mean that our days of sunshine are over, but it might mean that our bodies can no longer create enough vitamin D. Vitamin D is made in our skin when we are exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun, and this process is actually largely dependent on how high the sun is in the sky. At certain times of the year, the sun does not reach the proper altitude to produce these UVB rays, and we are less likely to meet our vitamin D needs just by being outside. The good news? You can avoid vitamin D deficiency with a few simple nutritional choices.
Why do we need vitamin D?
Although vitamin D has many functions, its biggest impact is on the immune and skeletal systems:
- In the immune system, vitamin D is responsible for activating cells that help your body fight infections. Without it, your immune system can’t fight off germs as effectively. This can impact your energy level over time.
- Vitamin D is necessary for your bones to absorb calcium, which keeps them strong. Without vitamin D, your bones may become weak and more likely to break—which can make it more difficult to stay physically active.
What about supplements?
The benefits and risks of supplementing vitamins and minerals have long been debated. In some situations, a supplement could be very useful. People who may be at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency include senior citizens, office workers, those with darker skin, those diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and vegans/vegetarians. Whenever possible, aim to get vitamin D through your diet, because other components in the food (like healthy fats) will help your body to absorb it. Not all persons at risk for deficiency require a supplement. If you think that a supplement is necessary, talk to your doctor before you begin taking one.
What foods are high in vitamin D?
Most food sources of vitamin D come from animal products. Sources of vitamin D include eggs, cheese, milk, yogurt, fatty fish, and beef liver. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, don’t worry! Many foods are fortified with vitamin D—including fortified almond/soy milk, tofu, cereal, and orange juice. Several types of mushrooms also contain it naturally.
As fall turns to winter, stock your fridge with vitamin D-rich foods so that you can remain healthy and active all season long!
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