Vitamin D has experienced a surge in popularity over the past few months. Normally Vitamin D is the nurtient you have to be sure to have with calcium so the calcium absorbs properly. If this were high school, calcium would be the pretty girl everyone loves and vitamin D would be the kinda chubby friend. But now it’s like D grew three inches and boobs on summer vacation. Suddenly everyone is taking notice of this vitamin. (And calcium is saying, “Ugh, I like practically invented her, right?”)
So what’s the deal? Well, turns out vitamin D has a long list of benefits, and a lot of studies are happening trying to find more. The research is promising–showing that D lowers cancer risk, boosts bone density, and that a lack of it increases the risk of hypertension, diabetes, and heart failure. We do know it’s absolutely necessary for calcium absorption. The LA Times reported last month that early studies are showing it improves memory, fertility, and weight control. There is no conclusive evidence about whether or not it improves symptoms of depression–experts are working on it–but if so, that’s a pretty sweet little vitamin.
And…many experts say we aren’t getting nearly enough. The current RDI for vitamin D in females ages 19-24 is 400 IUD, but a lot of experts have called for raising this number to 800 or 1,000. (The current toxic level of intake is 2,000 IUD.) The best way to get vitamin D is through sunlight–our bodies produce D after being in direct sun. But because everyone is wearing sunscreen to prevent cancer (something you should not stop doing), it’s harder to get it this way. Plus, darker-skinned people (me), people who don’t get out much (um, me sometimes), or people who live in Northern locations (San Franciscans and New Yorkers, that means you…and me!) have an even more difficult time getting the sunlight required.
So…what’s a girl to do?
First, check your supplements. If you take a multi or calcium, D is likely already in it, but look at the actual amount. It’s good to know your numbers. If you’re not meeting the RDI, add naturally vitamin D rich foods to your diet; cod liver oil (the best source; can’t say I’ve tried it), salmon, sardines, and tuna are good sources, and eggs and raw mushrooms have smaller amounts. You can also try vitamin D fortified foods like milk, soymilk, and orange juice. It’s unlikely that you’d “OD” on vitamin D, but if you do decide to use a supplement or add a lot of D-rich foods, be smart and do the math. If you’re batting 2,000, you might want to stop there.
But…since it’s the last official weekend of summer, why not try to get a little the old-fashioned way? This isn’t an excuse to lay out sans sunscreen for hours or go in a tanning bed (I shudder), but if you’re heading to the beach or the boat, go without sunscreen for ten or 15 minutes this Saturday and Sunday. Is it the warm sunshine on your skin or the vitamin D explosion that makes being outdoors feel so good? I don’t know, but I do know it feels delicious. So bare your arms or face, and, once you’ve gotten your little fix, drench yourself in SPF and enjoy your weekend!