Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones. Its nickname is the "sunshine" vitamin and for a good reason. When you get your daily dose of sun, you're making vitamin D. If you avoid the sun, follow a strict vegan diet or have dairy allergies, you may develop a vitamin D deficiency.
Sunshine helps the body produce vitamin D and, in turn, helps the body benefit from the calcium in the diet. Low levels of vitamin D may lead to skeletal deformities and soft bones. In addition, scientists are discovering the importance of vitamin D in preventing several other health problems.
Vitamin D deficiency may result in cancer, cardiovascular disease, poor cognition for adults, and asthma for children. For these reasons, it's essential to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. In this article, we'll answer the question, "How can I increase my vitamin D level?"
Since the sun's rays help the body produce vitamin D, the most straightforward answer is to add more sunshine into your day. Inside your skin is a kind of cholesterol that a precursor to vitamin D. The sun's UV-B radiation penetrates your skin to activate the cholesterol. The result is vitamin D. Sunlight-derived vitamin D remains in the body two times longer than from other sources (food or supplements).
Yet, how much vitamin D you can make with sunshine relies on different factors.
The amount of sunshine you can receive each day depends on where you live. For those who live closer to the equator, receive more sunshine. And not surprisingly, those who live further away have less. The reason is that if you live closer to the equator, you're closer to the sun's rays. Another factor is the season. As winter approaches, the hours of daylight decrease, and you have less opportunity to enjoy the sun's rays.
It seems like sunscreen is in everything these days — from moisturizers to lotions. While sunscreen protects the skin from harmful UV rays, it also blocks the production of vitamin D.
One choice is to forgo the sunscreen when it's not essential and soak up some rays. Now, sunscreen is vital in preventing skin cancer, sunburn, and fine lines, and wrinkles, but it only may take about 8-15 minutes per day to ensure optimal vitamin D production for those with lighter skin. Darker skin may need longer.
It may seem like everything stops working as well as your age, but this may be true with vitamin D production. Some research shows your body becomes less efficient in producing vitamin D as you age.
One compound common in the skin is melanin. In darker skin, it's more abundant and can prevent vitamin D production.
Sunshine conversion into vitamin D is the best source, but you can include certain foods to increase amounts naturally.
Mushrooms and humans have one thing in common— both make vitamin D. Yes, like humans, fungi use the sun's UV rays to produce vitamin D. So, adding a few to a salad or a pizza increases your vitamin D levels. There is one difference. Your body makes vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), and mushrooms make vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). Both raise the circulating amounts of vitamin D in your body.
Wild mushrooms have the highest amount of vitamin D. You should be careful of accidentally consuming poisonous mushrooms. Sometimes farmer's markets sell wild mushrooms or you can look for ones grown with UV light.
If you love seafood and fatty fish, you're in luck. Packed in each bite are nutrient-packed levels of vitamin D. Not only can you receive the recommended daily allowance (RDI) from seafood and fatty fish, but they are abundant in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. While the exact amount of vitamin D depends on type of fish or seafood, you can eat the following to get your vitamin D.
Sometimes egg yolks get a bad rap. If you’re worried about your cholesterol, you tend to indulge in the egg whites. But if you’re looking to increase your vitamin D level, then egg yolks can help. Rich in vitamin D, egg yolks increase the circulating amounts. However, as with mushrooms, fatty fish, and seafood, some egg yolks have less vitamin D. Chickens raised in cages without access to sunlight generate less vitamin D. Look for eggs that say free range to increase the odds.
Fortified foods rich in vitamin D are an easy way to increase levels. Since there are few foods laden naturally with vitamin D, look for the following fortified foods to add to your diet.
Sometimes the container says fortified with vitamin D right on the front, but you may need to inspect the ingredient list to be sure.
One of the best ways to increase and maintain an optimal vitamin D intake is through supplementation. Not only is the dosage reliable, but it can significantly raise your vitamin D levels. It's important to note that vitamin D comes in two forms: ergocalciferol (D2) and cholecalciferol (D3).
Research indicates that D3 is a better choice. It increases vitamin d levels significantly when compared to D2. Look for a high-quality vitamin D cream with D3. Also, not every vitamin D cream is equal. Supplements of any kind should be independently tested and meet high standards.
When you have a vitamin D deficiency, it may lead to serious health problems. The good news is that improving your levels is easy and natural. For many, getting more sunshine or modifying their diet is the answer. For others, a high-quality vitamin D cream ensures an accurate daily dose that only takes seconds to administer. Whatever you choose, you're doing something to ensure you have healthy bones for years to come.