With so many quick meal options in our world, it is easy to reach for the nearest calorie source when we are hungry. Often, though, the most convenient snack or meal option is not the healthiest (or even the greatest tasting). Taking a few moments to consider the nutrition content in the food at hand can help you develop eating habits that encourage the consumption of necessary nutrients, like vitamins -specifically, vitamin D.
The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health particularly stresses the importance of including Vitamin D in our diet, as it is an important nutrient that supports vital functions within the human body. Among the many benefits of having enough levels of this nutrient are reductions in cancer cell growth, infection control and assistance with absorbing both calcium and phosphorus to support healthy bone formation.
Colorado State University also touts vitamin D’s health benefits and outlines the consequences of its deficiency in the human body. Among the many issues that can result are rickets, which is a condition that results in bowed bones due to the softening and weakening of children’s bones. Children who do not spend enough time outside in the sun may be at risk for developing rickets because skin develops vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.
Another problem that can occur due to minimal intake of vitamin D is osteomalacia, a disease that affects adults and is also marked by weakening of bones. For older adults, this issue can be especially dangerous as it predominately affects weight-bearing bones, which means fragile adults can be more susceptible to falls and fractures.
Although medical professionals know the important of consuming enough Vitamin D, it is a nutrient that is notoriously difficult to find naturally in foods. The National Institute of Health recognizes this limited availability of vitamin D and identifies just a handful of foods which contain it: fish flesh (specifically fatty fish, like salmon, tuna and mackerel), beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. With so few foods containing vitamin D, it is important to make an effort to include these food choices in your diet when possible. For some people with dietary restrictions, such as people who practice veganism, simply eating vitamin D-rich foods to stay healthy presents a challenge.
What can you do if you are not able to eat enough vitamin D-containing foods to keep your nutrition levels within a healthy range? Luckily, there are simple steps you can take to ensure that you are not putting yourself at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D supplements are available, but as with any other supplement, you should consult your physician to determine whether this route is the best for you.
You should also consult a medical professional if you are considering changing your sun exposure routine to try to get more vitamin D. While sunscreen does block ultraviolet rays which help form vitamin D on the skin, you will want a qualified medical professional to advise you before foregoing the sunscreen, as it helps protect against skin cancer, which can have even more negative effects on your health.