It's not surprising that Vitamin D has taken center stage in health news, as it has become clear that many people don't get enough of it.
That's a problem because vitamin D is essential for bone health, helping the body absorb and use calcium in bones and teeth. It also helps build your immune system and regulate cell growth.
According to Kathryn Keim, PhD, a registered dietitian at Rush, that's just the beginning. "Vitamin D is involved in a lot more body processes than was originally thought," she says.
In fact, in one study, people with low levels of vitamin D and high blood pressure had nearly twice the rate of heart attack as those with adequate levels, although the reason was not clear.
Vitamin D also may be important to thinking and memory. And although more research needs to be done, some studies show that vitamin D may protect against multiple sclerosis.
While it's always best to get your vitamins from food, getting enough vitamin D through diet alone can be challenging, since few foods contain it naturally.
These are some good food sources:
Vitamin D is involved in a lot more body processes than was originally thought.
The sun can also help you get your recommended daily allowance. That's because sunlight converts vitamin D to its activated form in the skin.
During the short days of winter, however, it's hard to get enough sun — especially in northern-latitude locations such as Chicago. And some people, including older adults and those with darker skin tones, don't make as much vitamin D from sunlight as fair-skinned people.
According to Keim, if you're not getting your daily dose of vitamin D from foods and/or sunlight, the solution is supplements.
These are the U.S. recommened daily allowance (USRDA) guidelines, based on international units (IU):
*The recommended dose of vitamin D has actually been rising as research continues to reveal that the USRDA is inadequate. Many doctors now agree that most adults need at least 1,000 to 2,000 IU daily, if not more. Toxicity from vitamin D is extremely rare. Ask your doctor to include vitamin D testing in your routine blood test to make sure you're getting enough (source: Vitamin D Council).
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