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Vitamin D: What it does and how to get enough of it

Updated on June 30, 2012

Vitamin D is essential to good health. We get most of our vitamin D from the natural sunlight as it reacts with our skin. However, many of us are not getting enough due to the large amounts of time we spend indoors. Also, you may not be getting enough vitamin D if you live in a region with little sunshine, cover up skin while outside, are pregnant or breastfeeding, are of Asian descent, eat no or little meat or oily fish, or are older. A person with lighter skin needs about 10 minutes of daily summer sun on unprotected skin to produce the required amount of vitamin D for your body. However, if you have darker skin or it is fall, winter, or even spring sunlight, you may need to be exposed to sun for longer periods of time and it is recommended that you incorporate vitamin D rich foods in your diet or take a supplement. Ask your doctor before deciding to take a vitamin D supplement because taking too much could be harmful.

A few symptoms for vitamin D deficiency include:

  • Dental decay (many cavities or weak teeth)
  • Lack of energy
  • Trouble sleeping or insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Diarrhea

As for benefits, vitamin D:

  • Protects and lubricates your bones, teeth, and hair
  • Helps prevent many diseases such as some cancers including breast cancer and prostate cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart disease
  • Helps regulates healthy cell growth and activity
  • Reduces the inflammatory response which helps prevent chronic diseases such as cancer, diabetes, and obesity
  • Boosts your immunity
  • May help decrease the risk of high blood pressure
  • Regulates calcium and phosphorous levels in blood
  • Enhances the absorption of vitamin A and vitamin C
  • Helps prevent depression
  • Keeps your eyes healthy
  • Prevents premature aging and sun damage from your skin

Vitamin D is found naturally in only a few foods. Here is a list of natural vitamin D rich foods along with foods that are often fortified with vitamin D.

  • Shiitake and button mushrooms (if they have been dried in the sun)
  • Mackerel (3 and a half ounces will give you 90% of the recommended vitamin D amount)
  • Sockeye salmon (3 and a half ounces will give you 90% of your daily vitamin D intake)
  • Herring
  • Sardines (1 small tin will give you 70% of you vitamin D)
  • Catfish
  • Tuna (3 ounces equals 50% of your daily vitamin D)
  • Cod Liver Oil (1 tbsp is more than enough vitamin D for the day)
  • Eggs (1 egg gives you about 10% of your daily intake)
  • Fortified milk
  • Fortified cereals
  • Liver products

Are you getting enough vitamin D

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    • Time4Travel profile image

      Time4Travel 7 years ago from Canada

      Lots of useful information. There are quite a few sources of Vitamin D!

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 7 years ago from Minnesota

      I have been taking a vit D supplement for about five years now. My naturalpath did some testing on me and said I was deficient. I do not like fish or tuna so I had to do the supplement thing. Thanks for a great hub.