As we transition into autumn, the weather becomes cooler and the days become shorter. With less time being spent in the sun, it’s easy to become vitamin D deficient without even realizing it. During autumn, vitamin D is essential as it decreases your chance of catching a cold or flu. Although less sunlight can make things more challenging, it doesn’t diminish the importance of making sure you’re getting enough vitamin D in autumn.
Rather than being a true vitamin despite its name, vitamin D is actually a prohormone. Unlike vitamins that need to be consumed, our bodies can produce vitamin D. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, your body produces vitamin D from cholesterol. According to a 2011 study, even though it’s easy for our bodies to produce, about 41.6% of adults in the US are vitamin D deficient. Due to its subtle symptoms, people often don’t realize they are suffering from a vitamin D deficiency. This is especially concerning since one of vitamin D’s most important roles is keeping your immune system strong.
As the cases of COVID-19 begin to rise, vitamin D can play an essential part in keeping you healthy. A 2018 review of existing medical research suggested that some studies had found that vitamin D had a protective effect against the influenza virus. This is due to the support vitamin D offers not only your immune system but also lung function and cardiovascular health.
The National Institutes of Health recommends getting an average daily amount of at least 600 IU for anyone over the age of one. However, for adults over the age of 70, they recommend 800 IU. Sensible sun exposure on bare skin for 5–10 minutes, 2–3 times per week, allows most people to produce sufficient vitamin D. However, that can become more difficult during autumn and winter when the days are shorter and temperatures are low.
sources of vitamin d
The vitamin D found in supplements and fortified foods come in two different forms: D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). D2 is derived from plants while D3 mainly comes from animal sources. Both types will increase levels of vitamin D in your body. Very few foods naturally have vitamin D so for many, a supplement is an easier option. Regardless of the type of supplement you take, doctors recommend taking it with a large meal or source of fat as it absorbs better.
Alternatively, when it comes to incorporating vitamin D into your diet, the following foods will provide the most:
- Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel are among the best sources.
- Beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks provide small amounts.
- Mushrooms provide some vitamin D.
- Almost all of the U.S. milk supply is fortified with 400 IU of vitamin D per quart, and so are many of the plant-based alternatives such as soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk. But foods made from milk, like cheese and ice cream, are usually not fortified.
- Vitamin D is added to many breakfast cereals and to some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and soy beverages; check the labels.
other health benefits
Vitamin D has a surprising number of health benefits, including:
- Healthy bones. Vitamin D plays an essential part in the regulation of calcium and maintenance of phosphorus levels in the blood. Additionally, vitamin D deficiency can cause rickets in children as well as osteomalacia and osteoporosis in adults.
- Improved muscle function. New research has found a link between vitamin D and muscle function, including recovery from daily activities and exercise. This explains why low levels of vitamin D cause physical fatigue.
- Lower blood pressure. A 2012 study showed that vitamin D supplements helped lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension. Similarly, a 2009 study found that premenopausal women with vitamin deficiency had an increased risk of developing high blood pressure even 15 years later.
- Weight loss. Research from the University of Minnesota found that higher levels of vitamin in the body at the start of a low-calorie diet improved weight-loss success.
Ultimately, it’s vital to ensure that you are getting enough vitamin D, especially due to the concern of COVID-19. Regardless of whether you take a supplement, change your diet, or even use a UV lamp, make sure you are getting your average daily amount. With all the benefits vitamin D has to offer, it’s worth making a few small changes.