Your body makes vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight, but production often drops with the shorter days of winter, creating a vitamin D deficiency.
Amanda Nack, MS, RD, LRD, a senior dietitian at Sanford Medical Center Fargo, said vitamin D promotes calcium absorption. Besides being good for your bones, vitamin D plays an important role in cell growth, immune function, and reducing inflammation.
Data also suggests adequate vitamin D may help reduce the risk of breast cancer, colon cancer and prostate cancer, Nack said.
Risks of vitamin D deficiency
Without enough vitamin D, bones may become weak and brittle over time. This increases the risk of rickets in children. In adults, you risk a softening of your bones called osteomalacia and osteoporosis.
Some people are more at risk for too little intake or absorption of vitamin D:
- People with limited sun exposure
- Breast-fed infants
- People with irritable bowel syndrome
- Older adults
- People with a history of gastric bypass surgery
Additionally, you could be missing out on this important vitamin if you have a milk allergy or lactose intolerance, or if you follow an ovo-vegetarian or vegan diet.
How to get more vitamin D
To compensate for the lack of vitamin D from sunlight, get plenty of the vitamin from foods.
“Food sources include salmon, tuna, mackerel, sardines, cheese, egg yolks and beef liver,” Nack said. “There are a variety of foods that are fortified with vitamin D including ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, cow’s milk, soy milk, oat milk, almond milk and some brands of orange juice and yogurt.”
If you’re having trouble consistently meeting your complete vitamin D needs, you can take a vitamin D supplement, she said.
Dietitians recommend children and adults get the following vitamin D amounts each day:
- Up to 12 months of age — 400 IU
- Ages 1-18 years — 600 IU
- Between 18 and 70 — 600 IU
- Older than 70 years — 800 IU
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