Fitness Facts: Vitamin D
By Liz Cook
Registered Dietitian, Canyon Health and Wellness Clinic
While all vitamins are important, one has been getting a little extra press lately. You may have heard that vitamin D is believed to have a protective effect against COVID-19.
According to Harvard Health, “There is some evidence to suggest that vitamin D might help protect against becoming infected with, and developing serious symptoms of, COVID-19.”
While taking vitamin D supplements doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get COVID-19, ensuring you are getting enough vitamin D is beneficial for your overall health all of the time and may be extra beneficial right now.
Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in our country – according to estimates, from 20-40% of the population experiences vitamin D deficiency.
Even in the sunny state of Arizona, low levels of vitamin D are not uncommon. Vitamin D is crucial for our immune system, our bones and our mood, and symptoms of low vitamin D include increased risk for infection, fatigue, muscle aches and pains, depression, delayed wound healing and hair loss.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning that your body stores it within its fat cells until it is needed. However, if you are not getting enough of the vitamin on a regular basis, your stores will drop below levels needed for optimal health.
You can get your daily dose of vitamin D in three major ways.
The first is through food. However, there are not a ton of natural sources of vitamin D. Fish and fish oils, egg yolks and mushrooms are all good sources of vitamin D. Some other foods, including milk and dairy products, alternative milks (almond, soy, coconut, etc.), orange juices and breakfast cereals, often are fortified with vitamin D to help boost intakes.
Another key source of vitamin D is the sun. The UV rays from the sun trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin and contribute to overall vitamin D status.
The third key way is through a vitamin supplement. This can come in the form of a daily multivitamin or a specific vitamin D supplement.
In order to get enough vitamin D from food, it is recommended that adults aim to consume about 600 IU of vitamin D daily. This helps the body maintain healthy stores of this vitamin. However, it is not recommended that the average person consume more than 4,000 IU daily unless otherwise instructed by a doctor.
The recommendation for getting enough vitamin D from the sun is 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure between the hours of 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at least 2-3 days each week. Aiming for 15 minutes daily is also a good goal to ensure adequacy.
If you are unable to get enough vitamin D from food and the sun regularly, supplements are an efficient way to close those gaps. However, it is always best to speak with your doctor or dietitian before beginning any supplement.
All in all, whether vitamin D is protective against COVID-19 or not, it never hurts to make sure you are fully nourished and getting a little fresh air and sunlight each day!