Just call vitamin D the little vitamin that can! From improving your mood to supporting your immune system, vitamin D does so much more than build strong bones. While spending time in the sun is the best way to produce vitamin D, you can also boost your levels by eating foods fortified with vitamin D, or taking supplements. Low levels of vitamin D can lead to serious health concerns – including bone loss, frequent infections, and depression. Discover the health benefits of vitamin D, signs you might be deficient, and how to increase your levels.
Health Benefits of Vitamin D
Touted as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is important for your overall health. Adults who are interested in staying active well into their golden years should pay close attention to their vitamin D levels. The health benefits associated with vitamin D and numerous and noteworthy, as Healthline shares on their website:
- Keeps Your Bones Healthy. Bone loss from osteoporosis is a major health concern as we age. The result of a vitamin D and calcium deficiency, osteoporosis can leave you vulnerable to fractures, especially if you fall. Vitamin D helps your body absorb the minerals needed for bone growth, and studies show it may also lower the risk of osteoporosis, falls, and fractures.
- Improves Your Mood. Social isolation, coping with a chronic illness, or transitioning from work to retirement can all lead to depression in older adults. One promising study suggests that vitamin D may help manage the symptoms associated with depression, especially seasonal affective disorder.
- Prevents Cancer. When combined with calcium, vitamin D may lower your risk of developing certain types of cancer, including breast and colon cancers.
- Strengthens Your Immune System. Complications from colds and viral infections are a risk factor for seniors and those with chronic illnesses. Vitamin D appears to offer some protection against respiratory infections – but additional research is needed.
What are the Signs of Vitamin D Deficiency?
Having a vitamin D deficiency is surprisingly common – especially if where you live receives limited sunlight. Seniors are at a higher risk for developing a vitamin D deficiency for several reasons, including limited mobility and spending more time indoors. In fact, a recent study estimates that over 60 percent of older adults are deficient. If you have a vitamin D deficiency you may experience the following symptoms:
- Pain in your bones
- Muscle weakness, aches, and/or cramps
- Depression, anxiety, or other mood changes
Check with your doctor if you think you might have a vitamin D deficiency. A simple blood test can determine whether you need a supplement, or not.
Ways to Increase Your Levels of Vitamin D
Sunlight, certain foods, and supplements are three ways you can boost your level of vitamin D. Depending on your skin tone, 10 to 15 minutes in the sun two to three days per week will help your body produce what it needs. Remember that your ability to produce vitamin D may be limited by a variety of factors, including darker skin, sunscreen, cloudy skies, and less daylight during the winter.
Fortunately, there are plenty of foods packed with vitamin D, including:
- Cod liver oil
There are also plenty of vitamin D-fortified foods available:
- Orange juice
Featuring fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and dairy, the Mediterranean diet is a rich source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D. It also places an emphasis on healthy fats – olive oil, avocados, and fatty fish – which your body needs to absorb fat soluble vitamins, like vitamin D.
Supplements are also an additional way you can increase your level of vitamin D, but a doctor should check for a deficiency before you take a supplement.
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