Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

Friday, July 22, 2011

Question: How much Vitamin D do I need?  Do you have to take a supplement or can you get the full dose from food?  Can you take too much?

Answer: The newest recommendation for vitamin D is 600 IU (international units) per day. You don’t need to take a supplement to get enough vitamin D and getting too much from supplements is possible.

Why We Need It
Vitamin D’s main job is to help the body absorb calcium, which helps build and maintain strong bones. It also regulates blood levels of calcium and phosphorus. New research shows that it may help to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

The Best Ways to Get Vitamin D
Our best source of vitamin D is sunshine! Our bodies convert UV-B rays into vitamin D. The amount of sun exposure you need depends on your skin tone, time of day, and where you live. It’s recommended to get about 15 minutes of sunshine without sunscreen (it blocks the rays that make the vitamin, but you should put it on after those 15 minutes) during the middle of the day. This can produce up to 10,000 IU of vitamin D. Your body knows when it hits this level and stops converting the suns rays after enough vitamin D has been produced.

It’s easy to get your daily dose of vitamin D during the warm summer months, but it’s not so easy in the winter when we don’t spend as much time outside. Here are some foods that contain vitamin D:

  • Salmon (4 oz, cooked): 411 IU
  • Tuna ( 3 oz, canned): 200 IU
  • Shrimp (4 oz, cooked): 162 IU
  • Milk (1 cup, fortified): 100 IU
  • Orange juice (1 cup, fortified): 82 IU
  • Sardines (2, canned): 65 IU
  • Cod (4 oz, cooked): 63 IU
  • Breakfast cereals (fortified): 40 IU
  • Yogurt (fortified): 40 to 80 IU
  • Egg yolk (1): 18 IU
  • Mushrooms (1/2 cup, white, raw): 6 IU

 
Taking Supplements
If you already have a vitamin D deficiency (you can get your levels checked by a blood test), you may need to take supplements to get your blood levels back up where they belong. Supplements should provide D-3 in 600 to 1000 IU doses. Supplements may be a good idea in the winter when the sun’s rays are weaker, especially in the northern U.S., and you’re spending a good deal of time indoors. Before popping a supplement though, be sure to check with a physician or registered dietitian.

Too Much Vitamin D
You can get too much vitamin D if you overdo it with supplements. This isn’t usually the case with the sun or food since most foods contain smaller amounts of the vitamin. Too much vitamin D can cause calcium to build up in your blood, leaving you feeling nauseas, weak, and with a poor appetite. More serious symptoms include vomiting, kidney stones, and irregular heart rhythms. If you’re taking a supplement, be sure to stick to your doctor or dietitians recommendation.

TELL TOBY: How do you make sure to get your vitamin D?

Filed under Ask Toby, Nutrition Basics  |  Comments: more


3 Comments on “Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin



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