Is Sunshine the Best Source of Vitamin D?
In a word: No. Which is great news if you're like me and wear sunscreen and a hat whenever you're outside. While UV light is an efficient method of Vitamin D absorption, there is no true marker of how much is enough. What we DO know for sure is that spending 15-30 minutes a day in the sun without sunscreen in UV light will cause sun damage to your skin over time. That's why dermatologists recommend that we spare our skin and seek Vitamin D in foods and/or supplements.
What are the best sources of Vitamin D?
I've often heard that most people don't get enough Vitamin D so I was surprised when my labs came back with a surplus, until I discovered that some of my favorite foods made the top ten list (hello almond lattes, cheese plates, and salmon salads)! Other great sources are yogurt, orange juice, mushrooms, and (drum roll): cod liver oil. Surprisingly, no other fruits and vegetables contain much Vitamin D so if these foods aren't in your regular diet, you may want to supplement. (Scroll down for a list of the most Vitamin D rich foods).
Why is Vitamin D so important?
Vitamin D has several important functions. Most notably, it helps the body absorb calcium which is essential for healthy bones and teeth. Without sufficient Vitamin D, bones can become thin or brittle and together with calcium, Vitamin D helps prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D is also said to help ward off disease, improve immune function, regulate mood, and support weight loss.
How much Vitamin D is enough?
Based on the results of a 2011 study on its benefits for bone health, the recommended daily allowance for Vitamin D increased significantly and is now 600 IU for people up to age 70 and 800 IU for those over 70. The safe upper limit of daily intake for most age groups is now 4,000 IU (though I've heard of people that go higher under certain circumstances and/or limit the number of days a week they take them). Talk to your doctor about the best options for you and your body.
Winner winner salmon dinner! Here's a list of Vitamin D rich foods along with their calorie content and IU levels:
Go forth and sun protect, my friends (and enjoy a nice bowl of yogurt).
Sources: US Dietary Guidelines, Healthline.com, Dr. Axe.com
Photo Credits: Fleur Kahn, Ashley Winkler, Peter Conlan, Gregor Moser, Florian Klauer, Maryam Sicard, Alexander Maasch, Olivie Strauss, Kelly Neil, Gaelle Marcel and Ashleigh Shea on Unsplash.