The Benefits of Vitamin D (Plus, how to get more in your diet)
Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is one of the vitamins that has received the most attention, especially when it comes to supplementation. All the hype is certainly for good reason, as the health benefits of vitamin D play are indisputable, and deficiency is quite common.
Health Benefits of Vitamin D
Adequate vitamin D levels are essential for not only surviving, but thriving. Before carrying out its many functions, vitamin D goes through a 2-step conversion process, allowing it to become active. This process is completed by the liver and kidneys, and eventually vitamin D goes on to provide the following benefits (and these are just several examples of many):
Studies show that vitamin D supplementation can prevent osteoporosis and the risk of bone fractures in the elderly population.
Vitamin D also plays a key role in increasing physical strength.
Prevent Cancer and Type 1 Diabetes
Reduce Risk of Depression
Vitamin D deficiency could increase your risk of depression, and supplementation could help to relieve symptoms of mild depression.
Best Food Sources
The best food sources of vitamin D include:
- Wild salmon
- Beef liver
- Whole eggs
Also, supplementing with cod liver oil is a great way to keep vitamin D levels optimal. Some dairy and cereal products are also fortified with vitamin D, but foods that are naturally rich in this important vitamin are your best bet.
Why is Vitamin D Deficiency So Common?
Vitamin Deficiency is common, and not surprisingly so. One main reason for this is because it is difficult to get adequate vitamin D levels via foods alone, and many of us live in climates where we’re not able to meet our body’s need for the sunshine vitamin with sunshine.
Almost 42% of the population is vitamin D deficient
According to one study, almost 42% of the population is vitamin D deficient. When narrowed down to ethnicity, these numbers rise to 82% of black people and almost 70% of Hispanics. Deficiency symptoms might include:
- Rickets, a bone disease common among children in developing countries
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Bone pain and muscle weakness
- Poor immune health
If you live far away from the equator where the sun’s rays are not as strong, or you don’t eat at least three servings of fatty fish per week, chances are you could be deficient in vitamin D.
Your doctor should be able to easily test your vitamin D levels, but you’ll want to be sure to choose a vitamin D3 supplement versus a D2 product. This is because the D3 form is the biologically active form that is best absorbed and assimilated by the body.
All in all, if you don’t live in a tropical, sunny climate and/or eat fatty fish at least three times per week (or regularly take cod liver oil), your vitamin D levels might very well be suffering. Considering the crucial roles that this vitamin carries out in the body, deficiency is not to be taken lightly, and supplementing with a high quality vitamin D product could be well worth it.
Now that you have an understanding of the healthy benefits of Vitamin D, you can take steps to ensure your body is getting enough.
Rachel Fiske is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and graduated from Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition in Berkeley, California. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Rachel focuses on issues of weight management, GI problems, hormonal imbalances, fatigue and more via a whole foods diet and lifestyle changes.