Posts Tagged ‘Vitamin D’

a person standing in the sun

It’s fall now, which means the days are getting shorter and the temperatures are getting cooler. In the long winter months, warm weather and sunshine can seem like a distant memory. We start to look forward to the days when the sun will stay longer and bring back all that we love about being outside – picnics, barb-b-ques, and more. The sun, in fact, gives us more than we realize. One of the most important vitamins we need – Vitamin D – actually depends on the sun, so much so that it is known as the “sunshine vitamin”.

If vitamins had a popularity contest, vitamin D would surely be a top contestant. Why does it get so much press?  The answer lies in just how much it does for our bodies. Vitamin D supports neuromuscular and immune function, reduces inflammation, and improves bone health.

You might be wondering how the sun plays a role in the vitamin D levels in our bodies. We naturally produce an inactive form of vitamin D in our bodies called calciferol. Our hero, the sun, converts calciferol to the active form of vitamin D – cholecalciferol. However, this process depends on a number of factors including the length of exposure to the sun, skin type, where you live (how much sun exposure your geographical area gets), the season, and the time of day.

Vitamin D deficiency is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the world, and in the United States. It is estimated that around 40% of Americans may be deficient in Vitamin D. Infants, disabled individuals, the elderly, obese individuals, people who have been diagnosed with osteoporosis, people with darker skin, and people who have medical problems which interfere with normal absorption of nutrients are at higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency. If you feel you may be at risk for vitamin D deficiency, talk to your doctor about getting bloodwork done. It is important to consult with a doctor before taking a vitamin D supplement. Your doctor will help you determine whether supplementation is needed, and if so, what an appropriate dose would be. Taking a supplement without consulting with a doctor could put you at risk for toxicity, and you may suffer side effects associated with too much vitamin D. If your doctor does recommend a supplement, be sure to ask for recommendations, or use this resource to find products that have been tested for quality. As described in a previous blog article, not all supplements are created equal!

Proactively, besides getting outside and taking in the sun, you can also aim to include foods high in Vitamin D in your diet. Fatty fish such as trout, salmon, tuna, and mackerel; eggs yolks, cheese, mushrooms, and cod liver oil are all naturally high in vitamin D. Fortunately, in the United States a number of foods are now fortified with vitamin D: milk, infant formula, breakfast cereals, some brands of orange juice, and select yogurt products.

Whether it comes from the sun, food, or supplements, getting enough vitamin D is important!


Office of Dietary Supplements – Vitamin D. Accessed February 18, 2021. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/

Nair, R. & Maseeh, A. (2012). Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin. J Pharmacol Pharmacother;3(2):118-126. doi:10.4103/0976-500X.95506

Forrest, K.Y.Z. & Stuhldreher, W.L. (2011). Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults. Nutr Res.;31(1):48-54. doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2010.12.001

Written by Avani Patel, Pharm-D, Dietetic Intern, The Ohio State University

Reviewed by Jenny Lobb, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County

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Today we are reminded of the importance of a healthy immune system.  Our body’s ability to fight infection and disease depends on our immune system.  Good nutrition is important to support a healthy immune system.  Eat well by choosing nutrient rich foods, such as the following to boost your immune system:

  • Choose more orange and brightly colored foods. like carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, mango, tomatoes, and broccoli. These foods contain the antioxidant Beta Carotene which has been shown to strengthen the body’s infection fighting methods.
  • Foods rich in vitamin C including citrus, red peppers, kiwi, broccoli, berries and tomatoes. Start the day with a grapefruit, add sliced peppers to a sandwich at lunch and enjoy a cup of berries for a snack.
  • Herbs and spices such as garlic, ginger, oregano, rosemary, and thyme. These herbs and spices contain ingredients that help fight off viruses and harmful bacteria and give your immune system a boost. Try garlic hummus or raw ginger tea, or add oregano and rosemary to salads, roasted vegetables, and tuna salad to increase your intake of herbs and spices.
  • Get your Vitamin D. Found in fatty fish, eggs, mushrooms, fortified milk and fortified orange juice. Vitamin D is essential for optimal immune function and has been shown to help address respiratory infections. Add mushrooms to salads, stir fry’s and soups to increase your Vitamin D intake.
  • Zinc is key to optimal immune function but intake tends to be lower in those who are older, vegetarians, vegans and those who take antacids. Foods containing zinc such asmeat, seafood, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.
  • Probiotics  is good bacteria that promotes health.  It is found in cultured dairy products like yogurt and in fermented foods such as kimchi.
  • Protein from both animal and plant-based sources including, milk, yogurt, eggs, beef, chicken, seafood, nuts, seeds, beans, and lentils.

In addition to increasing your intake of nutrient-dense foods, you can protect your immune system by:

  • Minimize your intake of sugar, processed foods, and alcohol. Consumption of these foods may suppressthe immune system.
  • Practicing good hygiene and hand washing to help prevent the spread of germs. Remember to wash produce before eating or using in recipes. Clean glasses, dishes, forks, spoons, and knives to reduce the spread and growth of bacteria.
  • Manage stress. Physical activity, meditation, listening to music and writing are great ways to manage stress and help reduce the risk of some chronic diseases that could weaken your immune system.
  • Getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep contributes to a variety of health concerns including a weakened immune system. Seven to nine hours is recommended each day for adults and children need eight to fourteen hours depending on their age.

Take charge today of your health and add these tips daily to support a healthy immune system!

Written by:  Beth Stefura, OSU Extension Educator, Mahoning County. stefura.2@osu.edu

Reviewed by: Jenny Lobb, OSU Extension Educator, Franklin County. lobb.3@osu.edu


Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (2020). Support your health with nutrition. https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/support-your-health-with-nutrition

WebMD (2019). How can my diet affect my immune system? https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/qa/how-can-my-diet-affect-my-immune-system

WebMD (2019). Super Foods for Optimal Health. https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/antioxidants-your-immune-system-super-foods-optimal-health

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Vitamin D is well known for contributing to strong, healthy bones. Did you know that it also contributes to the health of many other parts of the body? Vitamin D is important to your immune system, muscles, heart, brain and respiratory system. It can help fight infection, keep your cells communicating properly and even fight cancer. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with aches and pains, tiredness and frequent infections, and it has been linked to a number of health problems including:

  • Bone Conditions (e.g. rickets and osteomalacia)
  • Cancer
  • Asthma
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Depression
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Crohn’s disease

While most vitamins are obtained through the diet, the best way to get Vitamin D is by exposing your skin to sunlight.  Your body can produce 10,000 to 25,000 IU of vitamin D each day with 15 minutes-2 hours of exposure to sunlight. The daily amount of sunlight needed for your body to produce Vitamin D varies by:

  • Skin tone – pale skin makes Vitamin D more quickly than dark skin
  • Age – our bodies have a harder time producing Vitamin D as we age
  • Location – the closer you live to the equator, the easier it is for your body to produce Vitamin D
  • Altitude –Vitamin D is produced more quickly at high altitudes when you’re closer to the sun
  • Weather – our bodies produce less Vitamin D on cloudy days than on sunny days
  • Air pollution – your body will make less Vitamin D if you live in a highly polluted area
  • Time of day – your body makes more Vitamin D if when your skin is exposed in the middle of the day when the sun is at its highest point
  • Skin Exposure – the more skin you expose, the more Vitamin D you produce

Keep in mind that high sun exposure can increase risks for skin cancer.  Sun screen and protective clothing/hats are recommended for protection from the sun, even though reduced sun exposure may inhibit the body from producing Vitamin D as quickly.

In the fast-paced world we live in today, the average American does not consistently get exposure to the amount of sunlight needed to produce optimal levels of Vitamin D.  If you suspect you’re not getting enough sun exposure for your body to produce Vitamin D, you can get vitamin D through diet and supplementation.  The recommended dietary allowance (i.e. the average daily intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all healthy people) is 600 IU. Foods high in Vitamin D include milk (120 IU per 8 ounce serving), salmon (450 IU per 3 ounce serving), canned tuna (150 IU per 3 ounce serving) and fortified orange juice (140 IU per 8 ounce serving).

Additionally, the Vitamin D Council recommends Vitamin D supplementation as described in the chart below:

Vitamin D recommendations Vitamin D Council
Infants 1,000 IU/day
Children 1,000 IU/day per 25 lbs of body weight
Adults 5,000 IU/day

According to the Vitamin D Council, Vitamin D toxicity can occur, but it is rare and unlikely: for example, a person would need to take a daily dose of 40,000 IU for a couple of months or longer to experience toxicity, or take a very large one-time dose such as 70,000 + IU. If you’re concerned about Vitamin D deficiency or toxicity, ask your doctor to test the level in your body.

Author: Brooke Distel, DTR, Dietetic Intern and graduate student

Reviewer: Jenny Lobb, MPH, RD, LD, Family and Consumer Sciences Educator, OSU Extension Franklin County, lobb.3@osu.edu


Brinkman, P. (2016). Keeping Sun Safe. Ohioline. http://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/hsc-7. 

National Institutes of Health: Office of Dietary Supplements (2016). Vitamin D. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/.

Vitamin D Council (2017). About Vitamin D. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/.

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lazy day

Do you ever feel like covering your head and just staying in bed?  This seems to be more common for many people during those long, cold, dark winter months.  So, before you decide to barricade yourself in the house and hide under the blankets let’s examine some hints that may help.

One of the best ways to beat those winter blues is with exercise.  According to Pamela Hatch, a licensed professional counselor and life coach, when you exercise you produce serotonin.  Serotonin is a feel-good chemical.  This is a powerful chemical in helping you feel better throughout the day.  Another important way to increase serotonin is spending time outside.  The sunlight will increase Vitamin D levels as well as serotonin, so a combination of exercising outdoors is really effective for increasing energy and feeling better.   At least 20 minutes of sun daily is best for improved health and mood.  Even if the sun is not shining, any light outdoors is better than none at all.  This could be as simple as walking the dog or going for a lunch time walk.exercising in the snow

Exercising is dreaded by many, so finding something you enjoy and making it a habit is important. Finding a comfortable place to exercise is a good place to start.  Some people prefer a class while others are happy on the treadmill or exercising alone.  Whatever you decide, make sure to set some short-term and long-term goals that you can realistically obtain.

Stretching ourselves to be more social is also important.  It is tempting to stay in the warm, comfortable, house, but being with others will help with positive thinking.  Be kinder to yourself– get out and interact with others.

Source:  Get  Up, Get Out, Pamela Hatch, Licensed Professional Counselor, Columbus, Ohio, December, 2011.

Author:  Liz Smith, Family and Consumer Science Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension.

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