By Karen Appold

Sunlight is a great way to naturally get vitamin D. Skin cells use ultraviolet-B rays to make vitamin D in your body. But with winter’s cold temperatures and shorter days, it can be difficult to get enough of this vital vitamin. You can also get vitamin D from certain foods and by taking vitamin D nutritional supplements.

According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2000, 77 percent of Americans don’t get enough vitamin D. A blood test can determine if you have a deficiency and how severe it is.

The U.S. daily value for vitamin D is 600 international units. Taking too much D can cause your body to absorb too much calcium. This increases your risk for heart attack and kidney stones.  

The benefits of vitamin D include:

Builds strong bones and immune system.

Ideal levels of vitamin D help the intestine to absorb calcium and phosphorus, among other nutrients. This activity strengthens your immune system and bones. A proper calcium balance prevents arthritis or osteoporosis. It also improves skin and hair health.

Regulates bodily functions.

Vitamin D lowers stress, controls blood pressure, reduces inflammation, assists with insulin secretion, alleviates pains and aches, decreases respiratory infections, fights depression and improves cardiovascular health.

Prevents disease.

Vitamin D prevents or may prevent a host of diseases, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, hyperparathyroidism, hypophosphatemia, hypocalcaemia, preeclampsia, osteomalacia and rickets.

Promotes weight loss.

Fat cells need vitamin D in order to properly function–it tells them whether to store fat or burn it. D also helps your body to absorb calcium, which contributes to weight loss.

Foods Rich in D
Vitamin D is found in many types of seafood, including fish, oysters, caviar, salmon, sardines, mackerel, catfish, tuna and cod liver oil. Food products that are fortified with D are also good sources such as cereal, milk, orange juice and soy products. Other foods that are high in D include fresh fruits and vegetables, beef liver, cheese, ham, sausage, eggs and mushrooms.

Karen Appold is a medical writer in Royersford, PA.