What if you found out one vitamin can do all this:
- Fight disease
- Reduce depression
- Boost weight loss
- Protect against diabetes
- Stave off heart disease
And is critical to the maintenance of optimum health?
Now, what if I told you that this vitamin is given away at no cost during part of the year?
I can understand if you’re skeptical; but you’ll understand shortly – read on to discover what this vitamin is, what it can do for your health, the dangers of missing out on this essential substance, and of course, the best ways to get your daily requirement of this, literal, foundation of human health.
The Sunshine Vitamin
If you haven’t guessed by now; I’m talking about vitamin D, also called the ‘sunshine vitamin.’
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for facilitating the intestinal absorption of essential minerals such as; calcium, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. Vitamin D also has other (critical) biological effects in humans. It can be acquired through diet or exposure to UV radiation (sunlight).
But this just covers the basics – research has discovered that this nutrient has an extraordinary level of influence over our health. Let’s start by taking a look at the consequences of not getting enough.
We only need to go back a little ways historically to see that rickets; a skeletal disorder that’s caused by a lack of vitamin D, calcium, or phosphate, was once a common health problem in northern Europe and the UK. Vitamin D is vital for the body to metabolize the building blocks of strong, healthy bones. Rickets sufferers will experience symptoms like; weak and soft bones, retarded growth, and, in severe cases, skeletal deformities.
Vitamin D deficiency makes it almost impossible for the body to maintain sufficient levels both calcium and phosphate. When this happens, the body will produce hormones that leach calcium and phosphate from your bones. When bones lack these minerals, they inevitably become weaker and softer.
3 Risk Factors to Look Out For:
- Geographic location: Your body produces vitamin D when you’re exposed to sunlight, so living in an area with little sunlight will put you at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Also, people who spend much of the day indoors are at risk.
- Diet: You will have a greater risk of deficiency if you eat a vegetarian diet that doesn’t include fish, eggs, or milk. Having an allergy to milk sugar (lactose intolerance) is another risk factor.
- Skin Color: darker skin does not react as strongly to sunlight as lighter colored skin; consequently individuals with higher melanin levels need much greater time exposed to the sun to produce the vitamin D they require.
To Stay Heart Healthy
Numerous studies have discovered a direct correlation between vitamin D deficiency and a significantly higher risk of heart disease and hypertension in adults. One reason for this has to do with vitamin D’s role in calcium absorption; contrary to popular belief an atherosclerotic blockage is mostly composed of calcium and not fat. Vitamin D deficiency may create a situation where excess calcium in the blood comes to rest in the cardiac arteries rather than being used for bone metabolism.
Low vitamin D levels have also been shown to be a risk factor for hypertension. Increasing serum vitamin D levels has consistently lowered blood pressure in individuals suffering from a diagnosed deficiency.
What about Diabetes?
Current research has linked low vitamin D levels with the development of insulin resistance which can result in diabetes. Preventing insulin resistance is important to head off this, frequently debilitating metabolic disorder. Studies have shown that test subjects given a daily dose of vitamin D equivalent to ten times the amount found in the average multivitamin increased their insulin sensitivity by almost 40%. This is a remarkable improvement according to researchers.
Stay Lean with Vitamin D
Scientists at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center have discovered that a calorie restricted diet for weight loss is far more efficient for individuals who maintain healthy blood levels of vitamin D. All the women in the study who took supplemental vitamin D (2000 IU) and reached ‘replete’ levels of vitamin D (they had optimum levels) lost close to 30% more weight over a one year period than those who didn’t raise their blood levels to this point.
To maximize your weight loss efforts; you need to do more than increase your intake of D, you need to take enough to achieve a healthy blood level of this ‘super’ vitamin.
What Else can it Do?
The list of vitamin D benefits is incredibly long, and more benefits are being found every year – but here is a short list of what research has shown that this nutrient can do for you:
- Lower risk of cancer
- Reduces depression
- Increased sense of well-being
- Increased muscle strength
- Fewer asthma attacks
What Foods Are Vitamin D Rich?
Besides getting sufficient exposure to sunlight or taking a daily supplement – there are many foods you can include in your diet to ensure that you’re getting enough:
- Salmon, tuna, mackerel, and other fatty fish are rich in vitamin D
- Beef liver is an easily found, and incredibly rich, source of D
- Stop throwing away those egg yolks! Egg yolk is an great source of dietary vitamin D
- If you love cheese – enjoy it in the knowledge that it provides your body with this essential nutrient
- Cod liver oil is how many people have traditionally maintained healthy vitamin D levels
- Shiitake mushrooms will bring a little more sunlight (vitamin) into your life
- Milk and yogurt provide significant amounts as well
How About Supplements?
There are several types of vitamin D, but only two are important to humans: D2 and D3.
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is created by plants, and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is synthesized by the body when your skin is exposed to ultraviolet-B (UVB) rays in sunlight. The biologically active form of this vitamin is calcitriol, which is synthesized in the kidneys from either D2 or D3.
Of the two types of vitamin D, D3 is the most efficient form that you can consume to maintain healthy levels of this nutrient in your body – so read the labels of that pill bottle and make sure that you’re taking the most active form of D to maintain your health during the winter months when you can’t get enough UV exposure on your skin to make your own.