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What's the Deal with Vitamin D?

Alyssa Snyder, MS, RDN
December 15, 2022
February 3, 2023

Your body requires many vitamins and minerals to function and keep you feeling healthy. Vitamin D is one of them! Vitamin D is found in food, made from sunlight, and is also sold as a supplement. If you’re wondering about Vitamin D, or how to boost it, this article is for you.

Am I Getting Enough Vitamin D?

Research has shown, 18% of people in the U.S. are at risk of inadequate vitamin D, and 5% have a vitamin D deficiency. You are most at risk for low vitamin D if you:

  • Have a milk allergy or lactose intolerance
  • Are vegetarian or vegan
  • Are aged 65 and up
  • Have dark skin
  • Don't go outside or do not expose your skin to the sun
  • Live in a cold climate with cloud coverage

Check with your dietitian about how to get more vitamin D from your diet, ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels, and talk with your doctor before starting any supplements. Having adequate vitamin D is important for keeping you healthy, happy, and active.

Benefits Of Vitamin D

Adequate Vitamin D reduces your risk of:

  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cancer

Vitamin D also promotes healthy bones, fights off infections, reduces inflammation, and helps to regulate blood glucose levels.

Risks Of Low Vitamin D

If you don’t have enough Vitamin D in your body, you may be at risk of :

About Vitamin D

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin found in food, available as a dietary supplement, and produced when sunlight hits your skin. In the U.S., most people consume less than the recommended amount of vitamin D. A 2013–2016 survey found that 94% of people consumed less than the estimated vitamin D requirement from food and beverages.  Since most people do not eat and drink enough vitamin D, they must also meet their needs with sunlight.

How To Meet Daily Needs

Sunlight

  • 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., 2-7 days a week
  • Exposure to the face, arms, hands, and legs without sunscreen is needed
  • Exposure to sunshine through windows does not produce vitamin D

Food

  • Including a few servings of foods high in vitamin D can help meet your needs
  • Check the nutrition facts label for the amount of vitamin D in food!
  • Best sources of vitamin D include:
  • Seafood
  • Lean Meats
  • Eggs
  • Legumes - beans, peas, lentils
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Fortified foods - milk, cereal, yogurt, and orange juice

Supplements

  • Check your current multivitamin supplement; yours may already contain vitamin D!
  • Read the label and examine the dosage
  • Too much vitamin D - vitamin D toxicity - can have serious health risks
  • Exceeding 4000 IU of vitamin D daily may cause:
  • headaches, thirst, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, muscle weakness, kidney stones, and more
  • Tell your doctor, pharmacist, and other healthcare providers about any dietary supplements, prescriptions, or over-the-counter medicines you take to help determine if there are any interactions

You may be wondering how much vitamin D you need. The recommended daily intake is 15 mcg/d or 600 IU for ages 1-70. If you are pregnant or nursing you may need more.

Takeaways

Your body needs vitamin D to maintain bone and muscle strength, and also fight infections. Increase this essential nutrient by going outdoors and staying active. Eat a balanced diet, including vitamin D rich foods. Not all supplements are safe, and most nutrients occur naturally in foods! Have your vitamin D levels checked regularly, and speak to your doctor and registered dietitian if your levels are low.