At some point in your life, you may have heard that you can get vitamin D from the sun. But, what does that really mean and why is it referred to as “the sunshine vitamin”? It’s quite simple—our bodies can naturally produce this nutrient as a result of sun exposure, just like they can naturally produce melatonin (the sleep hormone) as a result of darkness.
But, sun exposure may not always provide your body with enough vitamin D to help support your bones and nerve functions. In fact, 32% of Canadians do not get enough vitamin D. That’s why eating foods high in vitamin D or taking a supplement can help to provide your body with the right amount. Not sure where to start? From vitamin D benefits to nutrition, here’s everything you should know.
What Are Some Vitamin D Benefits?
One of the most important vitamin D benefits is that it helps to keep your bones strong by absorbing calcium that passes through your body. Let’s get a closer look at what that really means.
There are two types of calcium in the body: Blood calcium—which helps to keep your nerves and muscles functioning, and bone calcium—which helps you maintain strong bones. With a sufficient supply of vitamin D, your body may be able to absorb about 30-40% of calcium for use in your nerves, muscles, and bones. But, if you neglect this vitamin, your body might only be able to intake 10-15%—that’s less than half the amount. Over time, your body might prioritize calcium use for your nerves and muscles instead of your bones—which can result in osteoporosis.
But, that’s not all vitamin D can do for your body. Research has shown that it may help ease the effects of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) when combined with other treatments and therapies. That’s because vitamin D is thought to have a positive effect on serotonin, a hormone that affects mood. Additionally, it has been shown to help support the immune system.
How Can You Get Enough Vitamin D From the Sun?
Think you can get all of your vitamin D from the sun? You might not be wrong, but you might not be right, either. Researchers suggest that around 5-30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. twice a week may help you get enough vitamin D from the sun. But, researchers also mention that you’ll need to forgo the sunscreen and make sure that your face, arms, legs and back are exposed.
After a long, cold winter, you might be ready to head outside when the warm weather returns. During these seasons, the sun can radiate more ultraviolet B (UVB) rays—the type of light that supports the production of vitamin D in your skin. So, what might happen when your body maxes out on vitamin D for the season? It can store the extra supply in the body’s fat and liver tissue to use throughout the winter.
During those cold months, you may not be getting vitamin D from the sun while driving in your car or working by the window. Glass and sunscreen can both act as barriers to vitamin D absorption, which means you might want to consider vitamin D supplements. Since you may only be receiving a portion of the recommended intake from the sun, focus on eating more vitamin D-rich foods or take a supplement, especially during the winter.
What Foods Are Some Good Sources of Vitamin D?
Whether you realize it or not, you might already be consuming foods high in vitamin D. This nutrient is naturally found in fatty fish like trout and salmon, dairy products, meat, poultry, and mushrooms. It’s also found in fortified products, which can include dairy-free milks, cereals, orange juice, and yogurts. These are processed foods that have been enriched with certain vitamins and minerals to help provide micronutrients. So, what might happen if you don’t receive enough of this nutrient? Many studies have supported the belief that symptoms of low vitamin D can include cognitive impairment, low energy, and depression.
What Are Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?
Research recommends getting at least 600 international units of vitamin D per day. In food terms, that’s about one cup of mushrooms, five cups of fortified milk, or 13 eggs. Sounds like a lot, right? That’s because it is—which might be one of the reasons why so many people are vitamin D deficient. As a result, you may experience symptoms of low vitamin D like tiredness, and fatigue. Studies have even shown that vitamin D can help support the immune system.
Do any of these symptoms of low vitamin D sound familiar? Your doctor may be able to test your levels by administering a blood test called the 25(OH)D test, which can measure the amount of vitamin D in your body.
Vitamin D Supplements
You might not start ramping up your egg or milk consumption, especially if you follow a dairy-free or vegan diet. And while you may love to spend the day outside, school or work might be keeping you indoors. So, how can you help increase your vitamin D consumption? Nutrilite™ Vitamin D supplement is an easy and more affordable way to add vitamin D to your diet. These once-daily tablets contain 1,000 IU, which is equivalent to 8 cups of fortified milk per day. It's made using a combination of vitamins D3 and D2 from mushrooms, to help support strong bones and your immune system.