Creating a diet plan that supplements Vitamin D is crucial to your overall health. Not only can it keep you from getting depressed, it also builds strong bones, promotes healing, and boosts your immune system.
Vitamin D is one of the most important as well as commonly lacking nutrients in our bodies. It’s hard to get enough because it isn’t found naturally in food, and our bodies only produce Vitamin D when skin is exposed to ultraviolet light—as in the sun.
So it’s natural that people suffer Vitamin D deficiency, especially during the fall and winter months when they’re outside less and there are fewer hours of daylight. It’s also tough to get Vitamin D if you live in higher latitudes, like the Northeastern United States and Canada, for example.
What does Vitamin D do exactly?
Blocks depression and prevents seasonal affective disorder. One way Vitamin D is thought to function is as a regulator of natural biorhythms, important to mood stability. It may also regulate your body’s production of serotonin, a major neurotransmitter that is known to affect and regulate mood.
Research has shown that study participants suffering from depression were able to reduce symptoms and improve their moods by taking Vitamin D supplements.
Builds strong bones, preventing osteoporosis and related fractures. Vitamin D supports healthy bones in two ways. The first is by increasing the absorption of calcium. The second is by promoting healthy bone growth through cells called osteoblasts.
Helps prevent disease. A deficiency of Vitamin D is tied to a number of diseases and chronic ailments. For example, different kinds of cancer—breast cancer, colon cancer, lung and pancreatic cancer, and more—can be avoided or deterred through adequate Vitamin D consumption. A diabetes diet can also benefit from Vitamin D supplementation, as well as those who are concerned about autoimmune disorders and heart disease.
How can I tell if my body is low on Vitamin D?
The easiest way to find out is to request a blood test. Ask your physician and make sure the blood test includes Vitamin D levels. If your results come back from the lab and are low, then you might want to have a conversation with your doctor and consider making a test for Vitamin D part of your routine/yearly physical.
Which form of Vitamin D should I take? And how much?
There are two forms of Vitamin D: D2 and D3. Though there are a number of studies out there that analyze the bioavailability of both forms (i.e. which is most useful and easily absorbed by your body), D3 seems to be the best option. It is the natural form of Vitamin D (what your body produces when exposed to sunlight) as opposed to D2, which is synthetic and may not be activated and absorbed as well as the natural form.
If you determine you are Vitamin D deficient (after a blood test), it is safe to take about 1000-2000 IU per day.
Of course a complete diet and exercise plan are key to better health, whether your goal is disease prevention, weight loss, or a higher functioning immune system. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that can help you with any of these goals, allowing your body, its cells, and natural metabolism to work in concert with the right types of foods.
You’ll see it’s actually easy to supplement once you have the facts.
Murphy, P.K. and C.L. Wagner, Vitamin D and mood disorders among women: an integrative review. J Midwifery Womens Health, 2008. 53(5): p. 440-6.
Ganji, V., et al., Serum vitamin D concentrations are related to depression in young adult US population: the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Int Arch Med, 2010. 3: p. 29.
Vieth, R., et al., Randomized comparison of the effects of the vitamin D3 adequate intake versus 100 mcg (4000 IU) per day on biochemical responses and the wellbeing of patients. Nutr J, 2004. 3: p. 8.
Jorde, R., et al., Effects of vitamin D supplementation on symptoms of depression in overweight and obese subjects: randomized double blind trial. J Intern Med, 2008. 264(6): p. 599-609.