By Ann Jarema

When natural light comes into contact with our skin, it kick starts the body’s natural production of Vitamin D.  And why does that matter?

Vitamin D is an essential ingredient to our health. It protects us from inflammation, lowers our blood pressure, helps keep our muscles strong, improves the function of our brain, and could protect against cancer.

If you’re not getting enough vitamin D, you are not alone. Over half of the world’s population does not get enough sun. As a result of this, many of us are actually deficient in the vitamin.

The best way to increase your vitamin D, if exposure to the sun isn’t an option, is through a few particular foods. Salmon, herring and sardines, cod liver oil, tuna, oysters, shrimp, egg yolks, and mushrooms all contain healthy amounts of vitamin D. Of these options, the oily fish, fish liver oil, and egg yolks are your best option as they contain vitamin D3 which is more powerful than vitamin D2 (which you find in other sources including fortified food items such as milk and orange juice).

If you aren’t a fish, egg, or mushroom lover, then you may need to seek other ways to increase your vitamin D intake.  According to the US Institute of Medicine, your daily intake of  vitamin D should be approximately 400 – 800 international units (IU), which is equal to 10 – 20 micrograms. If you have little exposure to the sun or are already experiencing a vitamin D deficiency, you will likely need even more.

The most beneficial way for you to get your daily dose of vitamin D is by spending time in the sun.  Adequate sun exposure is challenging for many people to achieve. Work, academic obligations, geographical constraints, and more can hinder the best of intentions. Even with regular exposure to the sun, it is not uncommon to find that it is still not enough. Increasing concerns about skin cancer from sun damage presents a higher risk for some and may prevent typical sun exposure.  If you believe you are not getting enough vitamin D, a supplement may be in order.  A great place to start is by having a conversation with your physician about your specific risk factors. Your doctor can help you to put together a specific and personalized plan that will ensure that your vitamin levels get to a healthy level in the easiest way possible. When you correct your vitamin D levels, you will likely notice a very positive change in your mood and bodily function.  So why wait? Making some dietary and activity level changes now will help you reap the most long-term benefits.

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