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Healthy Habits: Get Your D

10/03/2011

You’ve been stuck indoors all winter with the Snowmadggedons and Snowpocalyses.  Unless of course, you have a bad a$$ streak and love to run in frigid temperatures.

The rest of us we might have missed something this winter…a little D, vitamin D.  Fifteen minutes a day of the lovely sunshine is needed for your daily dose.  Yet with skin cancer fears and cold weather most Americans don’t get half that.  Even my moisturizer has sunblock so I know I’m not getting mine.  I’m a ghost.

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I’m not suggesting worshipping the sun but vitamin D deficiency can be as dangerous as getting too much sun.  Vitamin D’s main role is helping calcium build strong bones, but that’s far from the whole story. Vitamin D regulates the immune and neuromuscular systems as well as playing major roles in the life cycle of human cells. (source)

According to WebMD blood levels over 30 are normal for Vitamin D.   Mine are 21.  That’s a failing grade in my doctor’s book.

There are simple things that can increase blood levels.  A quick walk with exposed skin or sitting by a bright window are a great start.  A diet filled with vitamin D super foods can give you an upper hand.

  • Salmon (especially wild-caught)
  • Mackerel (especially wild-caught; eat up to 12 ounces a week of a variety of fish and shellfish that are low in mercury)
  • Mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light to increase vitamin D
  • Cod liver oil (warning: cod liver oil is rich in vitamin A; too much may be bad for you)
  • Tuna canned in water
  • Sardines canned in oil
  • Milk or yogurt — regardless of whether it’s whole, non-fat, or reduced fat — fortified with vitamin D
  • Beef or calf liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Cheese

There aren’t many foods with natural vitamin D so diet alone is not sufficient…and for me this list is hard because I’m allergic or sensitive to most.  Many dairy products, brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D.

Real foods are best no matter how much vitamin D pre-packaged foods promise.  With doctor’s recommendations, vitamin D deficient people may take a supplement.


Before making any changes check with your doctor.  The test is a simple needle stick to determine blood levels.  Be sure to follow doctor’s orders because even too much vitamin D is still too much.  Overdoses of vitamin D are rare with food or sun exposure; most come from overzealous vitamin takers.  Symptoms of a vitamin D overdose are nausea, constipation, confusion and kidney stones.

If you are a woman, vitamin D is especially seriously.  Vitamin D is key to calcium absorption for preventing osteoporosis or muscle weakness and pain with age.

How about creating a new healthy habit…get your vitamin D levels checked.

Have you had your vitamin D level checked before?

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/03/2011 9:48 AM

    I’ve been wanting to get mine checked since I live in dreary Cleveland! I think it’s sooo important, so I can’t wait to do it myself!

  2. 10/03/2011 1:32 PM

    i just had mine checked in january! i’m a healthy 39, thank goodness! i really pay attention to my intake and do take a multi vitamin that has vitamin d in it. and my research project is a summer gardening intervention, so i’m outside from 9am-1pm every week day during the summer (at least until i graduate!).

    • 10/03/2011 5:26 PM

      That’s great that your level is normal. Skin cancer runs in my family so I’m covered in sunblock and need to make more of an effort.

  3. 11/03/2011 12:20 AM

    I went to a nutrition seminar a few weeks ago about a study of the parent to child relationship and correlation with Vitamin D levels. Basically they wanted to find out if both the parents and children were deficient together or not. But to measure the levels, they used little “sun badges” that they pinned to people’s shirts that would measure their exposure to Vitamin D. You use a new one each day and they are sent back to Australia (I believe) to be tested and examined. It was really interesting to hear about the testing process and how they conducted their study!

    The other thing to consider with Vitamin D is that how long you need to stay in the sun also depends on your skin tone. If you have light skin, your body doesn’t need to be in the sun as long as someone with very dark skin. So keep in mind that 15 minutes is just a rough average for the general population!

    • 11/03/2011 11:27 AM

      Thanks Laura. That study sounds really interesting to read. I should definitely change the wording to say “on average 15 minutes.” I love the fun science tidbits. So interesting to read.

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  1. New guidance on vitamin D recommends midday sunshine | Shine on Scotland

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