Vitamin D is a naturally occurring vitamin that is important for our overall health and wellness. Vitamin D has been shown to help reduce your risk of acquiring a number of health issues, including mental health disorders. You may have heard the term vitamin D deficiency and that you are more vulnerable to having vitamin D deficiency this time of year. That is because vitamin D is absorbed by your body in a number of ways, one of them being exposure to sunlight. In the wintertime, those of us who live north of the equator are at a higher risk of not getting enough vitamin D from the sun. Other ways we get vitamin D into our system is through the food we eat and supplements.
Why Is Vitamin D Important?
Vitamin D plays an important role in your body’s ability to absorb calcium, which is necessary for healthy bone growth. As we get older, we stop producing as much vitamin D, so it is important that we add vitamin D to our diets through supplements, artificial sunlight, and foods. Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to increase the risk for osteoporosis and bone fracture as well as muscle weakness; researchers are trying to determine if vitamin D deficiency contributes to other illnesses, such as diabetes, cancer, autoimmune disorders, and high blood pressure.
Lack of vitamin D may also play a major role in your mental health and wellness. Researchers have found that a common theme among depressed people is that they have an insufficient level of vitamin D in their system. Vitamin D is an important part of your physical and mental health, so it’s important to ensure you are receiving an adequate amount of vitamin D.
What Is the Difference Between Vitamin D2 and Vitamin D3?
If you are confused as to what type of vitamin D is best, you are not alone. The world of vitamins and supplements is overwhelming, and it can be confusing to try to understand the various benefits, types, and indications for vitamins. Vitamin D2 and D3 are both available as over-the-counter supplements. Research is struggling to determine which form of vitamin D is better for you. Vitamin D2 is found primarily in plants and other fortified foods, while D3, the form of vitamin D our bodies actually produce, is found in animal foods. Some studies suggest that D3 may help increase the concentration of vitamin D in our system better than D2. However, either form of vitamin D is helpful to our overall health and wellness.
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
The amount of vitamin D required for optimal wellness and health varies depending on a number of factors, one of them being an individual’s age. As previously stated, as we age our bodies produce less vitamin D, and we require more of it to function.
For babies, the recommended dose of vitamin D is 10 micrograms (mcg). For people ages 1–70, the recommended amount increases to 15 mcg; and for people over age 70, the recommended amount is 20 mcg. Supplements and food are two ways you can increase your daily intake of vitamin D. You can talk to a pharmacist or medical professional if you are unsure about your particular vitamin D levels and to obtain recommendations on supplements.
Good-for-You Food With Vitamin D
Fish seems to be one of the powerhouses of food. Fish always seem to be at the top of the list for nutrients and vitamins, and this includes vitamin D. If you are thinking about adding more vitamin D through your diet, fish is one of the most effective ways to do that. More specifically, canned sockeye salmon provides the most vitamin D per ounce. According to the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, the following foods are recommended if you are looking to add more vitamin D to your diet:
- Almond milk
- Farm-raised rainbow trout
- Fortified, ready-to-eat cereals
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Orange juice
- Portobello mushrooms
- Raw chanterelle mushrooms
- Raw morel mushrooms
- Soy milk
- Whole chocolate milk
- Whole milk
Talk to your doctor about questions you have regarding vitamin D. With a simple blood test, your doctor can help you determine whether your body is getting enough vitamin D. Ensuring you are receiving the right amount of vitamins and nutrients can help improve your health and may help reduce your risk of acquiring the disorders mentioned above.
Jacquelyn Buffo is a licensed professional counselor with experience and expertise in substance abuse and mental health issues. She received her MS in mental health counseling from Capella University and is a Certified Advanced Alcohol and Drug Counselor through the state of Michigan. She is also in the process of receiving her certification in dialectical behavior therapy (DBT). Jacquelyn has experience working with clients suffering from addiction and mental health issues on an in-home, residential, and outpatient basis. Currently, she works with adolescents and adults with Borderline Personality Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder, PTSD and Generalized Anxiety Disorder through Henry Ford Health System.