With the recent cold snap up north, going outside means you are all bundled up and staying in. Lucky for me the daily highs are still in the 70s around here, but a little birdie up north tipped me off for a great winter nutrition topic… vitamin D! The sunshine vitamin! Worried that you are not getting enough sun exposure or vitamin D from your diet? I am going to share with you some basic facts about the sunshine vitamin.
Vitamin D is not found naturally in many foods, however it is supplemented in some very common items. It can naturally be found in the flesh of fatty fish like salmon, tuna or mackerel or in beef liver, some cheese and egg yolks. Are these foods not found too often on your plate? Thankfully vitamin D is supplemented in milk, breakfast cereals, OJ, yogurt and margarine. If I look at this list I can say that I eat tuna, cheese and yogurt on a regular basis and have daily sun exposure (yes even at this time of year!) I also take a women’s multivitamin that has Vitamin D added as well. I am fairly confident that I am getting plenty of vitamin D and sunshine in my life. If you are not as confident as I am, especially in these cold (so I hear) winter months up north, it is time to start rotating some of these foods into your diet.
It is important to know vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. This means, unlike the B vitamins and vitamin C, which are transported via water and therefore excess is easily excreted through the urine, vitamin D is transported by fat and stored in your body fat. Therefore, too much can build up over time and possibly cause some harmful side effects. However for most adults, especially those in the northern winter, we are more concerned with deficiency.
Since vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, it is important to get your levels tested prior to and while taking a high dose vitamin D supplement. The are innumerable over the counter supplements which we all have easy access to. However, I recommend getting your levels measured while being followed by your primary care physician whenever taking a high dose vitamin D supplement.
Why the big fuss over vitamin D you may ask? Well it promotes calcium absorption by the digestive tract and hence good bone health. It is also important for cell growth (and remember our cells are always in a constant state of turnover) and helps maintain a healthy immune system. I know I definitely don’t want to catch that nasty flu going around! There are also ongoing research studies that are connecting vitamin D to cancer and diabetes prevention as well as other disease states.
So for those of you who aren’t snowbirds and are suffering through the winter (hopefully ending early as predicted by our groundhog friend this morning), be sure to rotate the above mentioned foods containing vitamin D into your daily diet, or call up your closest acquaintance, friend, or relative in florida and make a beeline south for a visit!