By Kristin Yancy
Call it habit built from years of back-to-school prep, but I always get my annual physical around this time of year. I like to think that I’m a pretty healthy person, so when I went in for my appointment I was expecting the usual pat on the head and a clean bill of health. I got it, but this year it came with an asterisk. “Your vitamin D level is a bit lower than I’d like,” said the registered nurse who returned my lab results.
My vitamin D level? Wasn’t that something I produced naturally? A little bit of research later, I was surprised both by how common this deficiency really is, and also how easy it would be to fortify my diet with vitamin D. Read on for the facts of this essential vitamin, and then get your cute butt outside and soak up some sun!
1.) Why Vitamin D?
According to the Mayo Clinic, Vitamin D’s major function is to aid in the absorption of calcium in the blood stream, helping to maintain and strengthen the skeletal system. Ingested alone or in combination with calcium, Vitamin D can help prevent fractures. Research also suggests that Vitamin D may help protect from illnesses such as osteoporosis, hypertension, cancer, and some autoimmune diseases. (http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-d/NS_patient-vitamind). Vitamin D may also support healthy fertility.
2.) The Deficiency
You may be Vitamin D deficient if:
– You are not getting enough sunlight. It may be winter, or you may be clocking a lot of indoor hours, or you may just be wisely and liberally applying sunscreen.
– The vitamin is missing in your daily diet
– You have darker or more pigmented skin. This means you have more melanin in your skin, a natural sunblock. This evolutionary mechanism was designed to protect the body from some of the harmful side effects of exposure to UV rays. Many of the population now spends an increasing amount of time indoors, rendering this natural defense somewhat unnecessary. 70% of African Americans are Vitamin D deficient.
3.) How To Get It
The easiest way to increase your Vitamin D intake is to include an over-the-counter supplement (2000 units) in your daily diet. If you’re into natural methods, you can try increasing your exposure to sunlight- 15 minutes daily without sunscreen. To add more Vitamin D to your meals, look for dairy products and cereals fortified with Vitamin D, or take in naturally-rich foods like salmon, sardines, oysters, tofu, eggs, or mushrooms.