Vitamin D: The Ultimate Winter Vitamin
Ever wonder why people become sick more often in winter? One of the main reasons is a weakened immune system due to lack of sunshine. What does sunshine have to do with our immune system? It actually plays a very important role. Plants are not the only ones using sunlight to create a product within their system; our skin produces Vitamin D for our body when exposed to sunlight. This Vitamin D then becomes converted into a hormone which regulates a number of important functions within the body. Here are two areas where you will notice the most impact:
Nervous system and immune system
This vitamin helps the muscles, nervous system and immune system work properly. It is particularly important to obtain adequate amounts of Vitamin D during the winter months as this is the time of year with the least sunshine.
Strong bones and teeth
Perhaps the most well known benefit is the role in promoting calcium absorption in the body. Once converted into a hormone it regulates the quantity of calcium in the bloodstream and helps create strong, healthy bones and teeth. Clearly it was a good idea to fortify milk with Vitamin D.
Decreasing your chance of becoming sick during winter may be enough to get you thinking about this vitamin. The question now becomes where to obtain it? Fortunately there are a few sources:
The number one source is to have your body produce it naturally from exposure to sunshine. Our bodies naturally produce the D3 form, which is one of two main forms of the vitamin (explained below). The body recognizes the product created by the skin and there is no digesting involved. This source is also the one that costs no money. During winter when the days are shorter and sunshine is hard to come by, dietary sources become more important. If you wanted to keep it completely natural and produced by your body you could plan a trip to the sunny Caribbean to boost your levels of this ultimate winter vitamin.
It is a sunless, cloudy winter and a vacation is out of the question. The next best source is food. Egg yolks, fatty fish (e.g. salmon and sardines) and cod liver oil are all natural sources. As mentioned earlier, milk has been fortified as well. Other beverages such as soy drinks, orange juice and some yogurts also have had this vitamin added. All of these dietary sources contain the D3 form.
Perhaps fish and milk are not your favourite foods, not a problem the other source is taking a supplement. The most important factor when purchasing this supplement is the form of the vitamin which is being sold. Most supplements are either D2 (ergocalciferol) or D3 (cholecalciferol). Research has shown that D3 is 3-4 times more potent than D2. In addition, D3 is the natural form which our body produces and that is present in animal based food sources. Essentially our bodies will recognize and use the D3 more efficiently than the D2 form. My advice is to look for the D3 version. The most recent set I bought was a chewable, naturally chocolate flavoured tablet. When they make it this tasty is there any reason not to get enough Vitamin D?
To determine the daily intake which is best suited for you, talk to your doctor or health care provider.