Add A Little Sunshine To Your Life!
Recent reports on Vitamin D suggest that some Americans’ may be lacking this “sunshine” vitamin in their everyday diets. Here we will attempt to shed some light on the subject.
Why Do We Need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, an essential mineral for healthy teeth and bone growth and development. Research shows that Vitamin D helps to support a strong immune system and protect against certain types of cancers.
How Much Vitamin D Do We Need?
The Institute of Medicine established the following adequate intake (AI) levels for vitamin D. However, new research is looking at the potential benefit of certain populations consuming higher levels. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends an intake of 1000 IU (International Units) of vitamin D daily for people with an increased risk of not getting enough, including older adults, individuals with dark skin and those with insufficient exposure to sunlight.
Infants, Children, Adults up to 50 years old – 200IU
Adults 51-70 years old – 400IU
Adults 71 and up – 600IU
In 2008, The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) issued recommendations based on more recent studies and safe use of 400IU of vitamin D in pediatric and adolescent populations. They recommend a supplement of 400IU of vitamin D per day for exclusively breastfed infants and children until they are drinking at least 4 cups of vitamin D fortified formula or whole milk per day. This also applies to older children and adolescents who do not get the recommended 400IU/day through milk and food.
Where is Vitamin D found?
- Sunlight – When skin is exposed to sunlight, your body naturally makes its own vitamin D. The National Institutes of Health states that 5-30 minutes of sun exposure twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen is usually sufficient to meet your requirements. However, it is important not to sunburn and to be aware of the dangers of skin cancer. Keep in mind that sun exposure during the winter months is limited and weak. Your body may not be able to produce the amount of Vitamin D that it needs.
- Foods – Few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Fatty fish such as salmon and fish liver oils are the best sources. Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in the American diet. Vitamin D fortified foods include: milk, some yogurts and cheeses, cereals, margarine, orange juice, breads, soy drinks, and some pasta. Some examples of foods and their Vitamin D quantities are:
Cod Liver Oil, 1 tsp – 1,360IU
Salmon (sockeye), cooked, 3 ounces – 794IU
Mackerel, cooked, 3 ounces – 388IU
Tuna fish, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces – 154IU
Milk, vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup – 115-124IU
- Supplements – While obtaining vitamin D from food is best, since foods are also full of other nutrients your body needs, dietary supplements are especially useful for people at high risk of not getting enough. Remember, that includes older adults, individuals with dark skin and those with insufficient exposure to sunlight. If you think you need a supplement, talk to your doctor or health care professional since a simple blood test can assess your blood level of vitamin D.