D seems to be the darling nutrient these days. And probably
for good reason. This nutrient is critical for the growth and
maintenance of sturdy bones. Without it, calcium — the body’s
primary mineral — cannot be absorbed. Yet vitamin D does
more than that, according to the National Institutes of Health
(NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements. It regulates how our
nerves and muscles work; and it reduces internal inflammation
that we now know can lead to chronic diseases like heart
disease and type 2 diabetes.
before we began to fortify milk with vitamin D and open
vitamin shops, our most abundant source of vitamin D was the
sun. Ultraviolet (UV) rays that strike bare skin trigger the
formation of the active form of this essential nutrient.
when many of us are not sunbathing on the beach for various
reasons, we look to food and supplements for this important
nutrient. Very few foods contain Vitamin D naturally, however.
Best sources are dark-fleshed fish like salmon or tuna since
vitamin D resides in the oils of these fish. Beef liver,
cheese, egg yolks and mushrooms contain some vitamin D as
well. One product, Monterey Mushrooms, contains a day’s
supply of vitamin D in each serving. Fortified foods, such as
milk, some juices and cereals (such as Total®) also
contribute vitamin D.
we know if we are getting enough? One good indicator, says the
NIH, is a blood test that measures 25-hydroxy-vitamin D, or
25(OH)D. If this is low, medical professionals often prescribe
vitamin D supplements. A recent study on men and women in the
Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reported
that people over the age of 50 absorbed more vitamin D from a
supplement when they took it under these conditions:
after a meal. Vitamin D is absorbed better with food than on
an empty stomach, say researchers.
after a meal that contains fat. Remember vitamin D is a
fat-soluble vitamin which means it likes to be involved with
fat. But it doesn’t have to be a super bacon cheeseburger
with fries. Eating a meal with just a moderate amount of fat
— such as oil, peanut butter, low fat milk or yogurt, fish,
chicken, or salad dressing — increased the amount of vitamin
D absorbed from a supplement by at least a third, according to
get too much vitamin D from sun exposure, say scientists,
since the body carefully regulates this. But we can get toxic
doses from supplements. More than 4000 International Units (IU)
a day may be unsafe over the long term for anyone over the age
of 9 years, says the NIH.