Even with summer on the way and more sunlight hours, many of us will still benefit from taking vitamin D (often called the sunshine vitamin) supplements. Why is vitamin D so critical for our health? Read on for the multitude of health benefits you'll gain by supplementing your vitamin D intake.
For strong bones and to help prevent osteoporosis, you need both calcium and vitamin D. Vitamin D is what enables your body to absorb the calcium, so if you're taking calcium supplements without taking vitamin D as well, you're wasting the mineral.
Foods that do contain some vitamin D include margarine, eggs, salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, swordfish and fish oils such as halibut and cod liver oils, but only in small amounts. And even though milk and orange juice are fortified with vitamin D, it's still difficult to get enough from your diet alone.
How much supplement should you be taking? Osteoporosis Canada recommends 400 to 1,000 IU for adults under the age of 50 and without osteoporosis or conditions affecting vitamin D absorption. If you're over 50, they suggest supplements between 800 and 2,000 IU. To figure out how much supplement you need based on your health and lifestyle, speak to your doctor.
While it's true that sunlight helps our bodies produce vitamin D naturally, keep in mind that we all have to limit our sun exposure to keep our skin safe from UV rays. Also, in the winter months, our northern climate doesn't allow us enough natural sunlight, which may lead to a vitamin D deficiency in many of us.
Being deficient in vitamin D has been linked to a slew of health conditions — breast cancer, heart disease, depression and weight gain, to name just a few — so supplementing will help lower your risk of developing these.
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