If your mother ever told you to drink your milk so you’d grow big & strong, she was certainly on to something. Milk is often fortified with Vitamin D – a vital nutrient for the strength of our bones. Our bones need calcium to grow and Vitamin D plays a key role in our bodies absorption of calcium. Vitamin D also assists in the healthy movement of our muscles and gives a boost to our immune systems so we can fight off diseases.
It is not uncommon too have too little Vitamin D in our systems, and rarely do people have too much of the nutrient. Doctors can tell if we are deficient by measuring the levels of Vitamin D present in our blood. Common populations that lack in recommended levels of Vitamin D include breastfed babies, the elderly, and people with dark skin. Those who lack adequate levels of Vitamin D may be at risk for weak, brittle or soft bones and muscle weakness. In children, this deficiency is known as rickets, and in adults it can present itself as osteoporosis or osteomalacia. Generally speaking, women are more susceptible to bone weakness than men.
If you happen to call the Northeast or Northwest of the United States your home, it has probably been recommended to you at some point that you should find ways to increase your Vitamin D intake. This is because direct exposure to the sun helps the body to create Vitamin D. Rainy days and snowstorms may be perfect for curling up indoors with a good book, but unfortunately, they do not do much for us in the way of Vitamin D. That being said, if you live in a place with a bit more sunshine you still may greatly benefit from an increase in Vitamin D consumption, especially if you go heavy on the sunscreen or prefer the hang in the shade.
Exposure to sunshine is not the only way we can increase our levels of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is found in many of the foods we eat. Certain saltwater fish, such as tuna and salmon, are a great source of the essential nutrient. Egg yolk, cheese, and mushrooms also naturally offer some Vitamin D, though not a substantial amount. Additionally, Vitamin D is often added to foods like milk, juice and cereal to increase our consumption (and to those producing these food items – we really appreciate the help!).
If you are lacking, you may also consider increasing your levels of Vitamin D by taking a supplement. Many daily multivitamins include the nutrient or you can take it all on its own. Of course, checking with a medical professional before starting a supplement routine is always recommended.
If you start to pay attention to your Vitamin D levels early in life, your older self will thank you. As we age, our skin does not absorb Vitamin D from sun exposure as efficiently as it does when we are young. Additionally, bone weakness later in life may be a result of not getting enough Vitamin D and calcium over the course of many years. However you decide to monitor your Vitamin D intake, the important thing is you are paying attention. Remember, it is never too early to start, and if you are an adult with strong bones and healthy muscles – it wouldn’t hurt to take a minute to call your mom and say thanks.