Though most of us have heard of vitamin D in relation to sunshine, it’s easy to be confused about what exactly it is, why you need it, and how you can get it. Like other vitamins, vitamin D is essential to your wellbeing. It has several vital functions in the body and can be obtained through several methods.
Unlike other vitamins, however, vitamin D can be obtained through exposure to sunlight. This means many of us are lazy about supplementing our vitamin D intake, even during the winter months when we probably aren’t getting enough of it.
What is it and why do you need it?
Vitamin D is part of a category of prohormones that are involved in absorbing and metabolizing calcium and phosphorous. It seems to be involved in weight loss, can protect you from illnesses like cancer and autoimmune diseases, and helps maintain your organs.
In particular, you need vitamin D2 and D3; vitamin D2, also named ergocalciferol, seems to be a kind of natural sunscreen in your cells, while some studies find that vitamin D3, called cholecaciferol, is more effective.
If you have insufficient vitamin D, you may have a higher risk of developing multiple sclerosis, a weaker immune system, low calcium or phosphorous levels, slowed mental function, and more. See also vitamin b12 and mental health.
Vitamin D is involved in protecting you from rheumatoid arthritis, radiation, cancer, tuberculosis, and even more diseases.
How much do you need?
Those who live in the tropics should receive adequate vitamin D intake every day. You need to get ten to fifteen minutes per week of direct sun exposure on your hands, arms, back, or face without sunscreen applied.
The UV index should be 3 or higher. The benefits of more than fifteen minutes are minimal, so make sure you apply sunscreen after your daily dose of sunscreen to avoid radiation and burning.
Just two fifteen-minute sessions like this each week should be enough for anyone. If you’re not in the tropics or if you have cloud cover, smog, or sunscreen preventing you from getting enough exposure, food and supplements can help you get adequate vitamin D.
Most people will be fine with 600 IU per day (those over 70 should consume 800 IU), while infants have their own requirements.
How can you supplement with food and vitamins?
If you want to eat foods or take vitamin supplements regularly to help you get adequate vitamin D, you can eat more salmon, tuna, or mackerel, take fish liver oil, eat beef liver, or eat cheese or egg yolks. Certain mushrooms contain some vitamin D, too.
The majority of foods with vitamin D are artificially fortified, but don’t shy away from them just because they aren’t naturally rich in vitamin D. Breakfast cereals, milk, breads, and other products are fortified to help reduce vitamin D deficiency.
You can find vitamin supplements with vitamin D if you want to supplement the D3 you aren’t getting from sun exposure. Many people living in temperate climates decide to do this during the winter, as the UV index may never reach 3 or higher in order to benefit from vitamin D generation in the body.
Vitamin D is a crucial element in a body that runs smoothly with adequate calcium intake. If you’re not careful, you might be deficient during the winter months, which can lead to higher risks of major diseases.
More Information and Resources about Vitamin D
The information written here is not meant as medical advice. Please talk to your doctor or other qualified health professional prior to following what is written on the article or taking herbal supplements of any kind.