Vitamin D, “the sunshine vitamin”, is a fat-soluble vitamin that supports the body in many ways. Vitamin D maintains bone health, cardiovascular and immune systems, muscle function, blood pressure regulation, insulin production, and reduces inflammation and mood disorders.
Vitamin D naturally occurs in two forms, vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Both forms are converted into a hormone when activated. D2 comes from plants or yeast steroids and is used in fortified foods such as milk, soy and breakfast cereals. D3 (cholecalciferol) is in animal sources including fatty fish and egg yolks and is produced by our bodies.
Vitamin D is unique from other vitamins and known as “the sunshine vitamin” because D3 is produced when the cholesterol in our skin absorbs UVB rays in sunlight. Those with adequate sun exposure may not require vitamin D supplementation; however folks in New England will never achieve optimal levels with sun exposure alone. Factors that impact vitamin D production include skin type, time of year, the amount of time spent in the sun, and the amount of skin exposed. According to the Vitamin D Council it is nearly impossible for New Englander’s to produce vitamin D from the sun in the winter, no matter their skin type.
The Vitamin D Council recommends minimum daily intake of 2,000 IUs vitamin D3. Since we know we do not get enough from the sun and it is unlikely our diet will provide the recommended amounts, most people can benefit from a supplement. It is important to choose a supplement containing vitamin D3, the active form which the body better absorbs and utilizes.
With the summer in full swing, try to boost your vitamin D levels by sitting outside during your lunch break or on the weekends for 10-30 minutes without sunscreen. Research shows moderate, frequent exposure is healthy, but overexposure increases risk of skin cancer, so make sure to cover up before you burn.
For more information on vitamin D, visit www.vitamindcouncil.org