Sunny {Vitamin} D: Why You Need it, Where to Get it

Our Nutrition world is abuzz this morning with the “Sunshine Vitamin”! The IOM has released updated recommendations, reminding us that both Calcium and Vitamin D play an important role in bone health. Due to emerging research and changing lifestyles, the committee now recommends getting 600 International Units (IUs) per day. People 71 and older may need up to 800 IUs per day.

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Why is it called the Sunshine Vitamin?

The body produces Vitamin D when exposed to natural sunlight. It’s a fascinating process that starts on the skin’s surface and ends inside the Kidney. Vitamin D deficiency has been associated with depression – while the jury is still out on that one, it may be more related to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), rare sun exposure during certain months and/or due to lifestyle, resulting in decreased natural production of the Vitamin.

Those At Risk for deficiency, or producing less natural Vit. D, include the following: darker skin tones (absorb less UV rays), low-sunlight environments (for example: I’ve lived in New Mexico & central Pennsylvania – the first sees the sun ~300 days per year, the latter sees it less than 100), and older populations (usually spend less time outside).

Another factor that may be decreasing our overall production is the increased awareness of skin cancer and its relationship with sun exposure. We lather on the sunscreen, wear hats & cover up to avoid it, but that’s also reducing our ability to create the vitamin.

Where else is Vitamin D found?

The few foods that naturally contain it include tuna, salmon, and mackerel – cheese, egg yolks and mushrooms in smaller amounts.  Milk, breakfast cereals, and some brands of cheese and orange juice are now fortified with it.

If you consume any of the above on a regular basis, and let your skin soak up the sun at least once per day, its more than likely you’re getting all the D you need!


Questions? Concerns? Theories? Have you thought about this sunshine vitamin before today?

Sources: Washington Post, NIH’s Vitamin D Quick Facts



Filed under food, new things!, Nutrition, what to eat

15 responses to “Sunny {Vitamin} D: Why You Need it, Where to Get it

  1. I didn’t get this until I met Michigan. 4 months of clouds can take a serious toll on you.

    Vitamin D is so important! Since I hate mushrooms, milk it is:)

    • Heather C

      I never realized how lucky NM and CO are – sunshine all around! The Pennsylvania cloud was so depressing…luckily I had football and college to distract me 😉

  2. I definitely try to get outside sometime during the day and when it’s sunny I definitely take advantage of it. It is hard though to force yourself outside when the weather isn’t all that great or warm. Keeping a balanced diet definitely helps!

  3. jawsome

    Hey Heather – I still lurk your blog even though mine took a temporary (long) hiatus. I’m back now, and have new crazy training plans! Your blog always makes me think about what I eat (which I appreciate as I often like to eat my feelings). That picture of the peach got me thinking about what I can do for a healthy lunch!

  4. i can tell a HUGE difference when my vitamin D levels are low!

  5. I recently got a blood workup for the first time ever. My doctor told me that my vitamin D levels were a little low. This is probably the reason I have felt so tired lately. But my doctor prescribed me something and I picked up a Calcium with Vitamin D supplement to start taking.

  6. mm yet another reason to eat more mushrooms!!

  7. It’s something I’m trying to be more aware of, and lunch time runs are the BEST way… even though the sun has been hiding a lot lately!

    Thanks for all the info!

  8. I love the sunshine vitamin!

  9. Love this topic! I definitely crave sunshine and get outside as much as possible to soak it in. It’s chilly here today but I went outside for a walk and my daily dose of D. When I lived in Kansas, we definitely had months and months with no sunshine and I was not a happy camper!

  10. This is so interesting because I have darker skin and I have a Vitamin D deficiency…

  11. I heart sunshine. That is all.


  12. I actually worry about this a ton with my moving from Sunny Florida to Dreary Michigan. I’ve been taking Vitamin D since I arrived and starting tomorrow I plan to start taking double doses to keep S.A.D away and make it through this winter.

  13. Jill

    Just a piece of education about Vitamin D. If you live north of 42 degrees latitude during November through February the UVB rays are not strong enough to give you the vitamin D your body needs no matter how long you stay out in the sun.

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