Good old vitamin D does much more than keep your bones healthy and strong. Vitamin D protects against infection by keeping the immune system healthy and may reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis and some cancer. There is also emerging scientific interest surrounding the role of vitamin D in skeletal muscle. Studies have found a relationship between vitamin D status and injury prevention, increased muscle size, reduced inflammation, decreased risk of stress fracture and acute respiratory illness.
The major dietary sources of vitamin D are foods to which vitamin D has been added, such as margarine or milk. Vitamin D can also be produced when the skin is exposed to sun. However, from October to March the sunrays in Canada are not strong enough for the skin to produce vitamin D. During this time, vitamin D must be obtained from the diet or from a vitamin D supplement. In foods, vitamin D is not found in high amounts. Check out the chart below to see how much of various foods you would need to consume daily to meet the Vitamin D requirements of a 19-70 year of old.
|Orange juice, fortified with vitamin D||6 cups|
|Salmon, Atlantic||225 g (7.5 oz)|
Evidently, getting enough vitamin D through food alone is no easy task. Health Canada recommends that everyone over 50, as well as breastfed infants, take a vitamin D supplement each day. However, unless someone plans on drinking 6 cups of milk everyday (not that I would recommend this), the rest of the Canadian population may also benefit from a vitamin D supplement from October to March.
Vitamin D supplements can be found in pill or liquid form. Either are good options. If you take the pill form, it should to be taken with food containing some fat to be properly absorbed. The liquid supplements are added to food or beverages but don’t need to be taken with fat for proper absorption. Select a supplement containing 1000 IU of vitamin D.
Like most dietitians, I believe that it’s best to get nutrients from food. However, I feel that vitamin D is the exception during the winter months. When the sun becomes strong again in April, you can rely on sunrays to maintain sufficient vitamin D status, but until then, you might want to consider a daily supplement.
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