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What is Vitamin D and Why is it Important?

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Vitamin D is a nutrient that we consume as well as a hormone that our bodies produce. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that has long been recognized to aid in the absorption and retention of calcium and phosphorus, both of which are essential for the development and maintenance of strong bones.

Vitamin D also regulates a variety of other cellular functions in your body. Its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and neuroprotective characteristics help to maintain immunological function, muscular function, and brain cell functioning. Vitamin D may also be involved in several other health issues. It may, for example, aid in brain health regulation, including memory loss and depression prevention.

Although additional research is needed, several studies suggest that vitamin D may help to prevent multiple sclerosis.

A study published in 2015 linked low levels of vitamin D to irregular periods and suggested that taking vitamin D may help regulate menstruation.

Vitamin D is commonly referred to as the “Sunshine Vitamin,” however it can also be obtained through food. Although some foods are fortified with vitamin D, few foods naturally contain it. Because it is difficult to consume enough vitamin D through diet, most people prefer to take a supplement. Vitamin D supplements come in two types: vitamin D2 also known as “ergocalciferol” or “pre-vitamin D” and vitamin D3 sometimes known as “cholecalciferol”.

Both are naturally occurring forms that are created in the presence of ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays from the sun, thus the term “sunshine vitamin,” however D2 is formed in plants and fungi whereas D3 is produced in animals, including humans. Vitamin D is produced mostly in the skin, but many individuals have insufficient amounts because they live in areas where sunlight is scarce or because they spend much of their time indoors.

Also, those with darker skin have lower vitamin D blood levels because the pigment (melanin) serves as a shade, limiting vitamin D production (and reducing damaging effects of sunlight on skin, including skin cancer). While sunscreen is helpful for preventing skin cancer, it can also reduce vitamin D production.

How to Get Your Vitamin D?

You can receive your daily dose of vitamin D in a variety of ways. This can be accomplished by diet, supplementation, and even exposure to sunlight. While there are numerous ways to obtain vitamin D, maintaining an appropriate level can be difficult, particularly through diet or lifestyle.

These are some good food sources:

  • Egg yolks
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Fatty fish, especially wild-caught salmon and mackerel
  • Canned tuna in water
  • Sardines
  • Beef or calf liver
  • Vitamin D-fortified products, including cereals, bread, orange juice, yogurt, and soy milk. (ND II Bea Margaux E. Cornelia, RND)
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