All about vitamin D
Dubbed the "sunshine vitamin," vitamin D is naturally produced by our body when it's exposed to sunlight. Thus, the more sunlight you're exposed to, the more of the nutrient you'll have in your body. It can be absorbed by the body through food, but in lower doses.
Why vitamin D matters
It's believed a healthy dose of vitamin D is necessary to maintain bone health as well as an overall mental and physical state of well-being. Stores of the vitamin may also prevent disease.
Studies have linked vitamin D deficiency to all sorts of chronic diseases and illnesses, including cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes and heart disease. Doctors believe lower stores of the vitamin are linked to cognitive impairment and mood disorders (commonly, seasonal affective disorder).
Vitamin D and Canadians
Because, as Canadians, we experience less sunlight than those that live in countries near the equator, we're predisposed to have lower levels of vitamin D stores in our bodies.
A recent study showed 90 per cent of Canadians aged six to 79 had concentrations of the nutrient that were high enough to maintain bone healthy. Those levels, however, were not high enough to stave off disease. Even more worrisome, 10 per cent of the population had inadequate levels of the nutrient.
The study also found men were more like to have inadequate levels in their system than women (most of those men were aged 20 to 39).
How much vitamin D do you really need?
The recommended daily dose of vitamin D is currently 1,000 IU. But as recent research points out, Canadians have a harder time maintaining – and even getting – enough vitamin D on a daily basis, which is why Health Canada is currently investigating whether they should up their daily dose recommendations of the nutrient. It's estimated that people with low levels of the vitamin should take in about 3,000 IU every day to raise their levels, and some studies suggest maintaining a daily intake of 1,100 IU every day is necessary to stave off disease.
What you can be doing now
Even if you live in Canada, where sunshine can be in short supply, there are some things you can be doing now to boost the amount of vitamin D in your system.
Get outside, but don't wear sunscreen: It takes about 18 minutes of midday sun exposure for your body to absorb a good amount of vitamin D, so try to get outside. And be sure to skip the sunscreen (filters in the product impair the body's ability to absorb the nutrient).
Eat vitamin D rich foods: Food rich in the nutrient include milk, fortified cereals or soy beverages, fortified margarine, salmon, cheese, yogurt, tuna and eggs.
Take supplements: When sunshine or food intake isn't enough to boost your vitamin D levels, take a supplement. Talk to your doctor about how much of the nutrient you should be taking.
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