Vitamin D is best known for its ability to aid in calcium absorption in the body and support healthy bone development. However, this fat-soluble vitamin also plays a crucial role in the maintenance of the body’s digestive, circulatory and nervous systems. Most recently, the vitamin has been shown to have an increasingly positive effect on immune system function. Not getting enough vitamin D may put your health at risk, particularly heading into the fall and winter months.
Here is what you need to know about this important vitamin and how you can ensure that you are giving your body what it needs.
Relationship Between Vitamin D and the Sun
Because the sun is one of the primary sources of vitamin D for the body, it is only natural that some people become deficient in this nutrient during the darker fall and winter months. The skin is home to a compound that works as a precursor to vitamin D. The body turns this compound into vitamin D as it is exposed to the UV-B radiation that comes from the sun.
Without natural exposure to sunlight during the fall and winter, many people find that they are severely lacking in vitamin D. This makes it important to be aware of other ways that you can ensure that your body is getting enough of this nutrient during this time of the year.
Benefits of Vitamin D
There are a number of proven benefits of adequate vitamin D. Here are just a few of the reasons to ensure you are getting adequate vitamin D throughout the fall and winter months.
Support Bone Health
Vitamin D is known for its ability to increase the absorption of calcium in the gut. This absorption translates to normal mineralization in the body’s bones. Without vitamin D, calcium would not be able to work to strengthen bones and prevent them from becoming brittle.
Boost Oral Health
Just as vitamin D helps bones to absorb calcium, it does the same for teeth. This lowers the risk of gum disease and tooth decay, promoting better oral health.
Reduce Risk of Chronic Health Conditions
There are a variety of chronic health conditions that vitamin D has been shown to reduce or help treat. These conditions include both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and some types of cancers. While taking vitamin D will never prevent these conditions, the nutrient has been shown to reduce the risk of many of these common medical issues.
Boost Mental Health
Low vitamin D levels may be linked to mental health issues such as depression. Researchers have found a relationship between depression and a deficiency of vitamin D.
Support a Healthy Immune System
In addition to all of these benefits, vitamin D also supports a robust immune system. An adequate amount of vitamin D has the potential of mitigating the effects of harmful viruses and bacteria. Although more research needs to be performed, early studies show that there is a higher mortality rate in COVID-19 patients if they are deficient in vitamin D.
Foods Rich in Vitamin D
Unlike vitamins B and C, it can often be challenging to find foods that are naturally rich in vitamin D. Fatty fish and seafood are some of the best sources of this crucial vitamin. Examples include tuna, sardines, shrimp and anchovies. Unfortunately, many people shy away from this type of food.
Other good food sources of vitamin D include mushrooms and egg yolk. In particular, you will see higher levels of vitamin D in free-range and pastured eggs. This is because these chickens are exposed to more sunlight than animals that are raised indoors.
You can also find vitamin D in many fortified foods such as cereal, yogurt, cow’s milk and tofu. Getting in the habit of reading food labels will help you to understand what types of fortified foods deliver the highest amount of vitamin D.
Additional Ways to Ensure You Are Getting Enough Vitamin D
It is clear that being intentional about exposing yourself to sunlight each day will boost your vitamin D stores. However, this can be tricky during the fall and winter. This is why some people turn to artificial light such as lamps that emit UV-B radiation. This type of radiation will stimulate the body to produce more vitamin D.
Because it is difficult to get enough vitamin D through food alone, many people also turn to the use of supplements to ensure that this nutritional need is being met. It is also a good idea to take your vitamin D supplement along with a healthy fat. This is because vitamin D is fat-soluble, meaning that it needs fat to be able to be absorbed by the body.
The science is clear that an adequate intake of vitamin D will help to promote better health and wellness. Do not let the fall and winter months translate to a lower intake of this crucial vitamin.