Eating healthy isn’t always the easiest thing to do. On your way home, there are temptations like chicken nuggets, cheeseburgers and pizza, at every restaurant you pass along the highway. On the other hand, low-fat or low-sodium choices in the grocery store aren’t always the most budget-friendly. At this point, you’re just looking for the quickest, cheapest and healthiest way to satisfy your hunger. Whether you’re eating to maintain weight, lose weight or just feel better overall, you may not always think about your Vitamin D intake, but Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for your health and immune function. Keep reading to discover six foods to add to your next grocery store trip to up your vitamin D levels!
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is both a nutrient you eat and a hormone your body makes. The fat-soluble vitamin is in the family of compounds, including vitamins D1, D2 and D3. Vitamin D is known to help the body absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus; both are critical for building bone. Also, studies show that vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections and reduce inflammation. This nutrient is needed to maintain healthy teeth and plays a significant role in the body, including regulating inflammation and immune function. Your body produces vitamin D naturally when you’re directly exposed to sunlight (don’t forget to wear sunscreen).
What if I don’t get enough vitamin D?
At least 42% of adult Americans have low vitamin D levels. If you don’t receive sufficient vitamin D, your bones can become thin, brittle and distorted, contributing to osteoporosis and broken bones. Osteoporosis is a bone disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle, and it is a combination of low bone density and poor bone quality. Weakened bones may break from a fall or, in advanced cases, from sneezing or bumping into an object. When a person has osteoporosis, the holes and spaces in the honeycomb structure of their bones are much larger than in a healthy bone. There are ongoing studies to determine if vitamin D is linked to reducing other medical conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer and multiple sclerosis.
People with who get limited sun exposure, have darker skin, are overweight or over 50 are at risk for vitamin D deficiencies. They may experience symptoms like tiredness, aches and pains. A vitamin D deficiency can be diagnosed by a healthcare professional using a simple blood test. Vitamin D deficiencies can cause other complications is they continue for a long time, such as:
What is the recommended amount of vitamin D?
Your recommended vitamin D intake depends on various factors like:
The National Institutes of Health recommends an average daily intake of 400 to 800 international units or 10 to 20 micrograms to maintain bone health and normal calcium metabolism. Suggested intake amounts are higher, between 1,000 to 4,000 international units, if you don’t receive enough sunlight or your body produces more melanin to maintain optimal blood levels.
What foods can provide me with vitamin D?
You can receive vitamin D from the sun, supplements and certain foods. Here is a list of six foods that will help you obtain an appropriate amount of the “sunshine vitamin.”
Other foods containing vitamin D include herring, shrimp, mushrooms and oatmeal, so don’t rely solely on sunlight to receive your daily intake. Vitamin D has many potential benefits and researchers are still discovering others. Adding the sunshine vitamin to your meal plan doesn’t have to break the bank and can be found at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. Supplements are also an option but speak with your healthcare professional before considering them.