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The role of vitamin D in your low carb diet

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Vitamin D & low carb diets

Recent research has uncovered some important facts regarding vitamin D and its effects on your weight and well being. Read on to learn why it is essential for your health.

Woman with Vitamin D Pill

Benefits of vitamin D

Vitamin D has long been one of those letters on the multivitamin bottle label – something most people know they need but pay little attention to. Recent research, however, has uncovered many important benefits to the body (and mind) and underscores how crucial this substance really is.

Bone health

Science has long known that vitamin D helps your body metabolize calcium and phosphorus properly and therefore is essential for healthy teeth and bones.

Combats cancer

Turns out vitamin D does so much more. Back in 2006, researchers at Toronto's Mount Sinai Hospital discovered that vitamin D plays significant role in reducing breast cancer risk. A host of other studies backed up these findings and added pancreatic, esophageal, colorectal, oral and other cancers to the list of those this vitamin may prevent.

Prevents other chronic disease

According to doctors at the Mayo Clinic, vitamin D can even help prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis and various other problems.

Diet-friendly

Of special interest to us dieters are effects recently found by Scottish researchers, as published in the June 2008 issue of Bone. In a study of 3,100 women living in Scotland between 1998 and 2000, scientists noted that those who were obese produced 10 percent less vitamin D than people of average weight. This lack prevents leptin, a hormone that helps the brain know when the stomach is full, from functioning properly.

Furthermore, they found that excess body fat absorbs vitamin D, preventing it from entering the bloodstream. Whether vitamin D deficiency helps precipitate obesity or the other way around is unclear, but one idea seems obvious: You need more vitamin D.

Improves mood

Vitamin D has important effects on mood, too. In a 2004 Canadian study published in Nutrition Journal, researchers showed that vitamin D supplementation can lessen the symptoms of depression, particularly in the sun-deprived winter months.

Tips to get more vitamin D

No doubt you've heard that vitamin D is linked to sun exposure. The sunshine vitamin is unique in that most of the body's vitamin D stores are manufactured by the body itself by way of exposure to sunlight.

Since very few foods naturally contain vitamin D and there is reason for concern over getting too much sun, how can you meet your body's need for vitamin D?

1. Get some sun…but in moderation

Researchers say 15 minutes of full sun exposure per day will help your body make enough vitamin D. So get outside (and ideally, get some exercise while you're there!), but don't forget your sunscreen. Why undo the healthful benefits of vitamin D by putting yourself at risk for skin cancer?

2. Eat foods that contain vitamin D

Luckily, these include lots of healthful low carb options such as fatty saltwater fish (such as tuna, salmon and mackerel), cod, shrimp, eggs, liver, cheese and plain yogurt, as well as fortified diet drinks and soymilk.

3. Take supplements

Milk, cereal and orange juice are all fortified with vitamin D, but these are not options on a low carb diet. That makes a daily supplement particularly crucial for you.

Supplements: How much is enough?

Up until now, the National Academies of Sciences has recommended a daily intake of 200 IU for children and adults up to age 50, and 400 to 600 IU for those older than 50. Based on recent research, however, researchers now recommend 800 to 1,000 IU for adults. The American Academy of Pediatrics has upped its recommendation for children to 400 IU right from birth.

According to the Mayo Clinic, however, it's possible to get too much of a good thing. More than 2000 IU per day can cause nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, weakness and weight loss. Worse yet, overly high doses can raise blood calcium levels, causing confusion and heart arrhythmias.

Research continues on the important role of this nutrient in human health. In the meantime, the best advice is not much different than what your mother told you: get outside, eat well and take your vitamins.

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