In our weekly series on how to boost your Immune System for a stronger, healthier way of life, we will be focusing today’s blog on the benefits of Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin.
In Canada, it is estimated that 32% of Canadians have insufficient Vitamin D levels in their bloodstream. This occurs more so in the winter months than during the summer and can cause the softening of bones or osteoporosis (fragile bones) in adults.
What is Vitamin D?
Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is produced by the body in response to your skin being exposed to the ultraviolet rays found in sunlight. It also occurs naturally in foods, such as certain fish, fish liver oils, and egg yolks, and in fortified dairy and grain products. Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps the body use calcium and phosphorous to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Some research says that Vitamin D supplementation may reduce the risk of viral infections, including respiratory tract infections, by reducing the production of pro-inflammatory compounds in the body.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Due to its importance for strengthening and maintaining healthy bones, a deficiency in Vitamin D may lead to symptoms of bone pain and muscle weakness. Vitamin D deficiency has also been associated with an increased risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer, and cognitive impairment in older adults.
This deficiency can be caused by a number of circumstances such as reduced sunlight, especially in the winter months, or by consuming more strict plant-based diets (i.e. vegan diet), as most natural sources of Vitamin D are animal-based.
What foods provide Vitamin D?
Accoding to Health Canada, the major sources of vitamin D are fortified foods. In Canada, cow’s milk and margarine must be fortified with vitamin D. Goat’s milk, fortified plant-based beverages (e.g., fortified soy beverages), and some calcium-fortified orange juices are permitted to be fortified with vitamin D. Cheese and yogurt can be made with vitamin D-fortified milk, however, the final product does not contain as much vitamin D as fluid milk alone. The only natural sources of vitamin D in the Canadian food supply are fatty fish and egg yolks. Because it is a commonly consumed food, fluid milk is a major dietary source of vitamin D.
Other examples of foods containing Vitamin D are:
- Rainbow Trout
- Sockeye salmon
- Beef liver
- Orange Juice
Increasing your daily Vitamin D intake using over-the-counter supplements is one way to improve your health. As of February 24, 2021, Health Canada increased the maximum amount for vitamin D supplements sold over-the-counter to 2,500 IU per dose for adults. They recommend a dietary allowance of 600IU (15mcg) per day for children and adults under 70 years of age. For those over 70, a daily allowance of 800IU (20mcg) is recommended.
Always speak with your doctor or medical practitioner before adding certain foods and supplements to your daily routine.
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