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Sunshine All Year Long

By Kim Manfried, RD CDN

Vitamin D is an important nutrient needed for our bodies to feel well and properly function. It is often called the “sunshine vitamin” as our bodies synthesize it via the sun. It is important to know what your Vitamin D level is, as you can be slightly low to severely deficient. Each range will require an amount needed to be taken on a regular basis. In addition, some foods contain vitamin D.

Here are some facts and tips regarding Vitamin D:

  • Vitamin D is needed to help us absorb calcium.
  • Low levels of Vitamin D can cause muscle pain and weakness, brittle bones, hair loss, sad or depressed feelings (often referred to as the “winter blues”), and a compromised immune system.
  • Low Vitamin D levels are usually found more often in winter months; however your levels can be low any time of the year.
  • Sources of Vitamin D include sun exposure, foods, and supplementation.
  • To obtain sun exposure, sit outside in direct mid-day sunlight (with no sunblock, and arms and hands exposed) for about 20 minutes per day. For most of the country, and especially in winter months, this is not possible, and for certain individuals, this is not recommended.
  • Food sources of Vitamin D include cooked salmon, canned tuna, sardines, egg yolk, Swiss cheese, and fortified foods such as milk, orange juice, yogurt, and cereal.
  • Obtain your Vitamin D level through blood work done by your healthcare provider.
  • Daily Recommended Intake for healthy individuals aged 9-70 years: 600 IU/day, over 70 years: 800 IU/day (with both having an upper limit per day of 4000 IU).
  • Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and should be taken with a meal or small amount of fat, preferably a healthy fat.
  • Factors affecting amount of Vitamin D per day to take: age, Vitamin D level (some people may require a prescription), health status and disease states, obesity, weight loss surgery, skin color, and certain medications.

Overall, Vitamin D should be discussed with your healthcare provider and a plan of action taken to reach your optimal level in a safe and effective manner. Check your level as part of your routine health exam., This can make a huge impact on how you feel and your overall health. Being happy and healthy is always a good thing!

Kim Mendel is a Registered Dietician and Diabetes Educator with Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County’s Family Health and Wellness Program. She can be reached at km432@cornell.edu

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