By Erin Wyatt A Recent ASU Nutrition Student
We all know that vitamins and nutrients are good for us, but do we know why? I personally feel that when I know the exact benefits that a vitamin provides me, the more likely I am to incorporate it into my life. Some vitamins not only have physical benefits but mental as well. One such vitamin is Vitamin D. This crucial nutrient impacts many important bodily functions, but unfortunately, many people are not getting enough of this super vitamin. In fact, about 40% of the U.S. population has a Vitamin D deficiency. Let’s take a look at the role that Vitamin D plays in our bodies and ways we can get more of it.
Vitamin D for Our Bodies
One of the reasons that we require this vitamin is that it aids in transporting other nutrients in our body. These nutrients include calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D helps us absorb the calcium and phosphorus from our digestive system into our bones, which keeps our bones strong and healthy.2 Another benefit of Vitamin D is its ability to help prevent certain diseases. These include skeletal disorders, certain cancers, cardiovascular disease, in which studies have shown a correlation between low Vitamin D levels and higher risks of these types of deadly diseases.3 Vitamin D also helps the immune system perform its best and perhaps aid in infectious disease prevention.3
Vitamin D for Our Minds
Studies show links between Vitamin D levels and our moods. When the amount of Vitamin D in our body drops, so do the serotonin levels in our brain.4 Serotonin is a chemical found in the brain that supplies us with a feeling of happiness.5 Ever notice how you might seem a little less happy during the winter time? This could be due to the lack of sunshine and thus our Vitamin D levels falling. It is appropriately named Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Luckily, Arizonians do not need to worry as much as some about this disorder, but there are other factors that contribute to lowering Vitamin D levels. These include sunblock, obesity, and not getting enough food sources of the vitamin.3
Sources of Vitamin D
Now that we know how important this vitamin is for our overall health, let’s take a look at ways we can incorporate it into our lives. The best source is the sun, in fact, just 5-30 minutes a day can achieve the optimal vitamin levels.3 Although sunblock is very important to prevent skin damage and skin cancer, it also blocks the source that allows our bodies to produce Vitamin D. Depending on your sun sensitivity level, consider going the first 5-10 minutes without sunblock and then apply and reapply the longer you are exposed to the sun’s rays. When the sun is not an option, achieving ideal Vitamin D levels can be reached through food and supplementation. Obtaining Vitamin D from food is not easy, but there are some foods that provide it. Consider eating more of these items during the winter months.
Food Sources of Vitamin D:
- Cod liver oil (best source)
- Fortified milk and cereals
The Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) for Vitamin D is 600 IU.2 If your doctor tests your blood for Vitamin D and it shows that you are deficient, then supplementation may be recommended.
This vitamin has a broad range of very important roles in our bodies, as well as our minds. It aids in bone health, disease prevention, and immune-system wellness. Lower levels can affect our moods, contributing to depression. Sun exposure, food sources, and possible supplementation can give us adequate amounts of this super vitamin. Talk to your doctor if you would like to learn the status of your Vitamin D levels. And Arizonians, consider yourself lucky to have an abundant resource of this pivotal vitamin.
- Forrest, K.Y.Z., & Stuhldreher, W.L. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults. Nutrition Research, 31(1); 48-54.
- Gunnars, K. (2019). Vitamin D 101- A detailed beginner’s guide. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/vitamin-d-101.
- Lappe, J.M. (2011). The role of vitamin D in human health: A paradigm shift. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine 16(1); 58-72.
- Greenblatt, J.M. (2011). Psychological consequences of vitamin D deficiency. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-breakthrough-depression-solution/201111/psychological-consequences-vitamin-d-deficiency.
- McIntosh, J. (2018). What is serotonin and what does it do? Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/kc/serotonin-facts-232248.
Looking for more tips and tricks like this to keep you family happy and healthy? Check out the Fill Your Plate Blog. Looking for some new recipes to try out? Check out the Recipe Section of our website. How about some fresh produce that the whole family will enjoy? Check out the local Farmers Markets near you.