Do you remember a few years ago when a new study about the importance of Vitamin D was published? Vitamin D supplements were flying off of the pharmacy and health food store shelves. I’m always amazed how an article in the media can influence a population to react. I wish it was that easy to influence the population to adopt a plan of eating well and exercising frequently. However, that is more work (another blog topic) than just going to the store and buying a bottle of the sunshine vitamin!
What is the big deal about Vitamin D?
- Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble micronutrient necessary for the health of our bones. We can make vitamin D in our bodies from having our skin exposed to sunlight on a daily basis. This is why it is called the sunshine vitamin.
- If you live in Canada – with our climate, we are limited to the number of days of sun per year and direct skin exposure to the sun is usually from May to September. And keep in mind, this process is blocked by sunscreen use.
- My dermatologist is always reminding me that too much sun increases the risk of sunburn, wrinkles, premature aging of the skin, pre-cancerous spots, and skin cancer.
- So exposing the skin to the sun for just 10 to 15 minutes daily in the late spring/late summer months (in Canada) is thought to be sufficient to make enough vitamin D for our bodies. Research continues to study this topic.
What foods contain Vitamin D?
- There are two forms of this nutrient – D2 and D3 .
- With Canada’s limited days of sunshine – we need to get vitamin D from food. However, very few foods in nature contain vitamin D. The flesh of fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils are among the best sources.
- Small amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Vitamin D in these foods is primarily in the form of vitamin D3. Mushrooms have enhanced levels of vitamin D2 from being exposed to ultraviolet light under their controlled growing conditions.
- In Canada, all milks and margarines are fortified with Vitamin D by law. Other fortified foods include soy beverage, orange juice, yogurt and ready-to-eat cereals.
How does Vitamin D work?
- The Vitamin D we get from sun exposure, food, and supplements is not in an active, absorbable form and must undergo two processes in the body for activation. It is first sent to the liver where it is converted into calcidiol.
- The calcidiol is then sent to the kidneys where it is converted into calcitriol, the active form that our bodies can use. The fat- soluble vitamin D, actually a hormone, maintains the calcium and phosphate levels in our bodies necessary for the development of healthy bones
- There is ongoing research identifying Vitamin K as part of the 'bone health cocktail' (vitamin D, calcium and phosphate) necessary for complete bone maintenance.
How much Vitamin D do we need?
- The Daily Recommended Intakes (DRI) for Vitamin D have been a subject of academic and popular research over the past ten years. The DRI for individuals between the ages of 1-70 years are recommended to consume 600 IU/day.
- Any age above 70 years is recommended to bump up the intake to 800 IU/day in order to prevent fractures with much frailer bones.
- If you’re concerned about your vitamin D level, ask your medical doctor to order the blood work. Then consult with a RD to identify a meal plan and supplement regime (if necessary) to keep your bone health at the optimum level.
Here is a quick and easy recipe with Vitamin D foods for you to try from Mushrooms Canada
(you can use your favourite, health focussed products – not just the Brand names listed in the recipe)