Vitamin D is essential to your health. Despite its name, it’s not actually a vitamin, but rather a hormone that helps regulate calcium and phosphorus levels in the body and support immune system functioning. But what exactly does vitamin D do for your body? The benefits are far-reaching, and just might surprise you. This is one vitamin you simply can’t do without.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D, or cholecalciferol, is a fat-soluble nutrient that’s found in everyday foods like fatty fish, eggs, and fortified milk. It can also be produced naturally in the body when ultraviolet rays from sunlight hit the skin.
The Crucial Role of D Vitamins
Vitamin D plays an important role in several areas of health, including:
- Metabolism: It is known to help the body absorb calcium, which helps form and maintain strong bones and teeth. Additionally, studies have linked vitamin D to a lower risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
- Muscle Strength: Has been shown to help improve muscle strength in people with weak muscles or those at risk for falls.
- Immune System Functioning: Many studies have confirmed that D vitamins helps regulate the body’s immune response and may help reduce inflammation.
- Blood Pressure: Has been linked to lower blood pressure in people with hypertension.
- Mental Health: Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with depression. Recent studies have found that increasing the intake of this nutrient may improve mood.
How Much Is Needed?
The amount of D vitamins you need depends on age and other factors. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the following daily doses for infants up to 12 months:
- 0–6 months: 400 IU (international units)
- 6–12 months: 400 IU
For children and adults, the recommended dietary allowance is 600 IU per day for those between 1 and 70 years of age, and 800 IU per day for those over 70. However, your doctor may recommend a higher dose if you’re at risk for vitamin D deficiency.
How to Get Vitamin D
In addition to fortified foods, the best way to get enough D vitamins is from exposure to sunlight. Spend 10–15 minutes in the sun several times a week without sunscreen, making sure to cover up or wear sunscreen after that time. However, keep in mind that too much sun exposure can increase your risk of skin cancer, so be sure to use caution.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for keeping your body healthy. This hormone helps regulate calcium and phosphorus levels in the body and supports immune system functioning. It may also help reduce inflammation, lower blood pressure, and improve mental well-being. To get enough D vitamins, be sure to eat fortified foods and spend 10–15 minutes in the sun each day without sunscreen. Simply stated, Vitamin D is one nutrient that is free to all who have access to the great outdoors.