August is the month for vitamin D! Try to spend time outdoors and in the sun during this last month of summer to incorporate vitamin D into your diet!
What is Vitamin D?
Like vitamin A, vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin. However, vitamin D is different from all other vitamins because the body can actually make it on its own with the help of sunlight. Therefore, if you spend enough time soaking up the sun outside, there is no need for you to obtain vitamin D from food sources.
What are the health benefits of Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is essential for bone production. It helps calcium to be absorbed into bones to make them grow strong and dense. To reap the benefits of calcium, milk manufacturers fortify their milk with vitamin D to aid in calcium absorption.
Vitamin D deficiencies can occur due to lack of sunlight exposure or the presence of naturally dark skin. Calcium cannot be absorbed without vitamin D and therefore a calcium deficiency develops. Without calcium, your bones cannot be supplied with adequate nutrients to grow. While not common in the United States, a vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets in children. In such children, growth is retarded because bones cannot calcify properly. In attempt to support the childs weight, his or her weak bones tend to bend and create a bow-legged appearence. In adults, a lack of vitamin D can increase the risk of osteoporosis causing fragile bones that can easily fracture and break.
Vitamin D toxicity, while rare, can cause serious problems. In the presence of excess vitamin D, extra calcium is absorbed within the body. This excess calcium can lead to the formation of kidney stones in an effort by the body to excrete the calcium that it does not need.
What foods contain Vitamin D?
The easiest way to get vitamin D is through direct exposure to natural sunlight outdoors. Exposing your hands, face, and arms to the sun for 5-10 minutes 2-3 times a week is sufficient. You do not have to worry about vitamin D toxicity from the sun because the body stops synthesizing vitamin D when it has a sufficient amount. However, sunscreen lotions above SPF 8 prevent vitamin D synthesis. While sunscreen is important in protecting yourself from wrinkles and skin cancer, allow just enough time in the sun before applying it in order to reap the benefits of vitamin D.
People who are unable to spend time outdoors or those who live in less sunny areas of the world should drink at least 2 cups of vitamin D-fortified milk a day. Vitamin D-fortified soy milk, cereals, and orange juice are also available as great alternatives.
So go have fun in the summer sun! Use vitamin D as the perfect excuse to get outdoors this August!