Being from Canada, with lack of sunlight in the winter months and quite short summers, there is a strong likelihood that I am not getting enough Vitamin D. As of right now, I am not taking any Vitamin D supplements, but I have started a quest to see if I should be taking them, and just how much. We get our intake of Vitamin D through the sun rays, specifically UVB. But with the short summers and dark winter days, I can almost guarantee that I am not spending enough time outside soaking up those UVB rays. Unlike most animals in the wild, humans are not able to produce their own Vitamin D, so we rely on the sun, food and supplements in order to meet the daily requirements. But what foods contain Vitamin D? What is my recommended daily intake? And of course, why do we need it?
Why do we need vitamin D?
Your body needs vitamin D in order to better absorb calcium from the foods we eat. As we all know, calcium is an important nutrient for good bone and teeth health. When we are low in Vitamin D, this can lead to muscle weakness and pain, as well as poor bone health, increasing the risk of osteoporosis. Vitamin D also helps support your immune, cardiovascular and endocrine system. There have been quite a few beginning studies out there looking at further benefits of taking higher doses of Vitamin D for people with autoimmune diseases, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis and Multiple Sclerosis (MS). Increased intake may also reduce the risk of certain types of cancer, specifically colorectal and breast cancer. Hopefully we will start to see solid clinical studies that support the benefits of this vitamin and certain diseases that have not already been linked.
Further information on the benefits of Vitamin D can be found here, which includes the different autoimmune illnesses Vitamin D may be able to help.
How much Vitamin D do we need in a day?
I am currently reading a really interesting book called The Disease Delusion (I love it so far) and it mentions the need for Vitamin D in order to help your body’s defense system. As I mentioned, Vitamin D contributes to the health of our immune, cardiovascular and endocrine systems! The author mentions that he has his patients take 1,000 IU/day – so I wanted to see if this applies to everyone, or only people with severe deficiencies as identified by a blood test. This way I know which vitamin dosage to buy from the store when I go out to get my own.
According to Eat Right Ontario, the following is the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) as set by the Institute of Medicine:
In the attached chart, the range for adults shows 600-4000 IU/day – this recommendation has quite a large range. I can rest easy knowing that by taking a supplement – on top of my sun exposure and food – I should still be within the healthy range.
On the other side of this – I found this article in the Globe and Mail very interesting, which talks about recent studies done that show the Institute of Medicine (IOM) may have gotten the RDA for Vitamin D incorrect. They studied patients using the RDA as set by the IOM and found that many patients were still deficient in Vitamin D. So in future time, we may see the RDA increase. For now, I will stick with the allowances currently set out.
Please note: it is important to consult with your health care practitioner to see if you are deficient in Vitamin D and find the proper dose for you. Every person is different and will require different vitamins and doses depending on their current health.
What foods naturally contain Vitamin D?
The following foods are known to have Vitamin D in them:
- Salmon – 447 IU per 3 oz
- Sardines – 178 IU per 3.75 oz of canned, Atlantic
- Tuna – 154 IU per 3 oz
- Egg – 41 IU per egg
- Cheddar Cheese – 21 IU per 3 oz
- Some milks/orange juice – only if the label specifically tells you it has been fortified with Vitamin D so serving sizes and Vitamin D values will vary depending on the product
Notice there are not many foods that contain Vitamin D in them. Personally, I don’t eat salmon or tuna more than once or twice a week so I can see I don’t reach my RDA of Vitamin D on a daily basis. If I am looking to increase my intake to the recommended dosage, I will likely need to look at taking a supplement.
Do you regularly take Vitamin D? Did you notice a change when you initially started taking it? If you are like me and do not yet take it, has the above convinced you to start?