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Are you getting enough vitamin D? 5 really good reasons to pay attention

By Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., March 31, 2011 - 12:36pm

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I know I’m not getting enough vitamin D, which—as a dietitian and nutrition editor of EatingWell Magazine—I hate to admit.

Except for in my coffee, I don’t care much for milk (a food that’s fortified with D). I also spend most of my weekday hours indoors behind a computer, I slather any sun-exposed skin with sunscreen when I go outdoors and I live north of the midsection of the country—all of which means I’m not getting enough sunlight for my body to produce the quantity of D I need. (Ultraviolet, or UV, rays penetrate the skin’s uppermost layer, causing skin cells to produce a form of vitamin D, which is then processed—along with vitamin D from food—by the liver and kidneys and converted to the active form of the vitamin.)

Are you getting enough vitamin D? Take this quiz.

I’m not alone: some studies suggest that as many as 7 out of 10 Americans don’t get enough of the “sunshine vitamin.” Interesting, considering the Institute of Medicine recently upped the daily recommended amount (for ages 1 to 70) to 600 International Units (IUs).

Having sufficient levels of D is important for everyone, me included. The vitamin practically deserves super-nutrient status:

  • Vitamin D helps bones absorb calcium, keeping them strong and preventing osteoporosis.
  • It may offer protection against cancer—lowering the risk of some types like breast, prostate and colorectal.
  • Studies suggest it can help with depression and in preventing seasonal mood swings.
  • Adequate D may help lower heart disease risk. Research has linked low levels of vitamin D with both cardiovascular disease and conditions that increase risk of cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
  • Vitamin D could help with weight control. In some studies, people with higher body mass indexes (BMIs) tend to have lower D levels. Also, upping vitamin D (and calcium) intake may have helped boost weight loss in one recent study of dieters. (Check out these 7 Foods That Do the Weight-Loss Work for You.)

Don’t Miss: What happens if you get too much or not enough vitamin D? Find out here.
Are you getting enough of the nutrients your body needs? Learn which 4 you shouldn’t skimp on.
Skipping Milk? 3 Other Ways to Keep Your Bones Strong.

Although I really should be more diligent about taking a vitamin D supplement, the nutritionist in me would rather try to eat more D-rich foods instead. But because you don’t have many options with vitamin D, check out this chart to know how they stack up.

Must-Try Meals: Recipes to Get More Vitamin D
Must-Eat Foods for Optimal Health in Your 20s, 30s, 40s and Beyond

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TAGS: Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., Health Blog, Good choices, Nutrition, Wellness

Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D.
Brierley's interest in nutrition and food come together in her position as nutrition editor at EatingWell. Brierley holds a master’s degree in Nutrition Communication from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. A Registered Dietitian, she completed her undergraduate degree at the University of Vermont.

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