22 Feb Nutrient of Concern: Vitamin D
By Rachel Green, Contributing Blogger
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans aims to promote health, prevent chronic disease, and help people reach and maintain a healthy weight. Every five years, the guidelines evolve to address public health concerns and the subsequent changing dietary recommendations for Americans 2 years and older. The newly published 2015 Dietary Guidelines has called attention to 5 nutrients of concern including: vitamin D, calcium, potassium, fiber, and iron. Here’s what you need to know about vitamin D.
What Is It?
Vitamin D is unique in that it can be synthesized by the skin when exposed to sunlight. This vitamin helps carry out several functions, most notably for bone health by regulating calcium metabolism. Vitamin D also helps maintain the nervous system, heart function, and normal blood clotting.
Many of us experience a lack of sun exposure due to, but not limited to, air pollution, winter, working indoors, and full clothing coverage; leading to an array of adverse health issues. Vitamin D deficiency negatively affects the body’s ability to absorb and use calcium, which can lead to rickets (or softened bones) in children, osteomalacia (or softening of the bones) in adults, and poor dental health. Several other symptoms and diseases, ranging from mild to critical, could develop as well, including: chronic pain, tetany (muscle spasms), osteoporosis, chronic kidney disease, hyperparathyroidism, and some recent studies suggest multiple sclerosis.
How Much Do You Need?
The Dietary Guidelines recommends 15 mcg (600 IU) per day for children and most adults and 20 mcg (800 IU) for adults older than 70 years. Here are some of the best sources:
- Salmon, sockeye, canned (3 oz.) = 17.9 mcg
- Trout, rainbow, farmed, cooked = 16.2 mcg
- Salmon, chinook, smoked (3 oz.) = 14.5 mcg
- Swordfish, cooked (3 oz.) = 14.1 mcg
- Salmon, pink, canned (3 oz.) = 12.3 mcg
- Fish oil, cod liver = 11.3 mcg
- Tuna, light, canned in oil, drained (3 oz.) = 5.7 mcg
- Whole milk, fortified (1 cup) = 3.2 mcg
- Tilapia, cooked (3 oz.) = 3.1 mcg
- Milk (nonfat, 1% and 2%), fortified (1 cup) = 2.9 mcg
- Orange Juice, fortified (1 cup) = 2.5 mcg
- Pork, various cuts cooked (3 oz.) = 0.2-2.2 mcg
- Mushrooms, morel, raw (1/2 cup) = 1.7 mcg
- Egg, hard-boiled (1 large) = 1.1 mcg
*Source: Appendix 12 of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
To increase your vitamin D:
- About 20-25 minutes of sun exposure without sunscreen should be enough to provide you with your daily needs. However, time needed depends on the how much of your skin is exposed.
- Eat the entire egg, including the yolk, which is where vitamin D is found.
- Doctors now test regularly for vitamin D and may recommend a supplement. Always follow the doctor’s recommendations for dosage as this vitamin is toxic in high amounts.
Stay tuned to learn about other nutrients you may be concerned about.
Rachel Green is a registered dietitian currently working in the food industry. Originally from Pennsylvania, she attended the University of Delaware for biochemistry but quickly realized her interest in nutrition. Since completing her dietetic internship at Cornell University, Rachel has enjoyed gaining experience in many aspects of nutrition, from interning at Shape magazine to working as a cooking counselor at a summer camp. Throughout her career, Rachel aspires to work in nutrition communications, focusing on educating consumers to improve their health and wellness. In her spare time, she loves cooking (of course), traveling, yoga, hiking, gardening, and a tasty cup of strong coffee.