You probably know the benefits of taking vitamin C when you feel sick and vitamin B12 for better brain and nervous system health. But you may not know about the many benefits of vitamin D – particularly as we age.
Vitamin D is found in some foods, as food additives and as a dietary supplement. Vitamin D is also produced when ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight strike the skin. The more time spent outdoors, the more opportunity we have to get enough vitamin D.
Here’s what you need to know about the benefits of vitamin D:
Vitamin D is a Health Powerhouse
Vitamin D’s main role is to help the body absorb and use calcium, which it needs for bone, tooth and skin health. It has anti-inflammatory properties that help protect and promote cell growth and reduce the buildup of harmful plaque in the body. Vitamin D can also improve immune function and enable muscle growth. Here more ways vitamin D is a health powerhouse:
- Flu fighter: Vitamin D can help boost your immune system to defeat more everyday illnesses, like colds, the flu and other respiratory conditions.
- Cancer opponent: Because it boosts immune response, vitamin D can help decrease the risk of colon and blood cancers.
- Bone health defender: Vitamin D builds and maintains healthy bones. It can help reduce osteoporosis, which leads to soft or brittle bones.
- Skin champion: Vitamin D can strengthen the immune system, helping to treat the autoimmune condition of plaque-like psoriasis.
- Oral health benefactor: By helping the body absorb the calcium it needs to keep gums and teeth healthy, vitamin D can help fight gum disease and tooth decay.
Vitamin D Improves Mood
Another benefit of vitamin D is better brain health and mood improvement. Data indicate a lack of vitamin D can lead to depression (including seasonal affective disorder (SAD)) and sleeplessness. In addition, lower vitamin D levels have also been associated with brain-related conditions like Parkinson’s disease, dementia and multiple sclerosis.
Get the Right Amount of Vitamin D
One of the great things about vitamin D is that you don’t need a lot of it every day to reap its benefits.
Always follow the advice of your doctor when taking vitamins or supplements. This is especially important when you take other medications. Some medications, including over-the-counter remedies, can actually lower your vitamin D levels. Medications like laxatives, steroids, medicines that lower cholesterol, seizure medications and weight-loss drugs can all have this effect.
There are also plenty of natural ways to get the vitamin D your body needs. Consider these sources:
- Sunlight: Our bodies are created to make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. So, a short walk outside with forearms, lower legs and face uncovered will help your body naturally produce vitamin D. However, our ability to make vitamin D lessens with age. In addition, it is important to protect your skin from sun exposure longer than 30 minutes.
- Fish and fish oil: Three ounces of cooked salmon can provide more than 80 percent of daily vitamin D requirements. Not keen on fish? One tablespoon of cod liver oil supplement provides 170 percent of daily vitamin D.
- Mushrooms: If you like adding mushrooms to your daily salad or entrée, consider this added benefit: one to five sliced white mushrooms make up half of your recommended daily vitamin D intake.
- Milk: Milk is fortified with vitamin D, one cup contains 20 percent of the daily recommended vitamin D intake.
Of course you can always take a vitamin D supplement – on the recommendation of your doctor.
Partner with Your Doctor
Get all the insight you need about the right amounts of and sources for vitamin D from your doctor. It is especially important that you talk to your doctor if you are concerned that symptoms such as excessive fatigue, bone pain, muscle weakness, aches or cramps, or mood changes like depression may be due to a lack of vitamin D.
A variety of daily activities offered at Embark make it easy to get outside and stay active. Find out more here.