Vitamin D - The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D – The Sunshine Vitamin


Vitamin D is both a nutrient you eat and a hormone your body makes with the help of sunlight.  It is an important nutrient needed for immune health and to maintain strong bones.  Adequate vitamin D and calcium intake, as well as regular exercise, are essential to keep bones healthy throughout life.

Vitamin D has many roles in the body.  The top three are increasing the absorption and retention of calcium in your body, helping bring calcium to your bones and teeth to keep them strong, and helping regulate how much calcium is in your blood.  Calcium works together with vitamin D to help protect against the loss of bone mass. However, vitamin D's importance does not end there. It is also helps muscles function and allows the brain and body to communicate through nerves. The immune system also needs vitamin D to fight off invading bacteria and viruses.  There are three ways to get vitamin D: the sun, your diet or supplements.

Vitamin D from the Sun

The body converts sunlight into Vitamin D after it hits unprotected skin.  It does this by manufacturing vitamin D from cholesterol, through a process triggered by the action of sunlight on skin, hence its nickname, “the sunshine vitamin.”  However, not everyone makes enough vitamin D from exposure to the sun.  That population tends to include people who have a darker skin tone, who are overweight, who are older, and who cover up when they are in the sun.

Vitamin D from Diet and Supplements

Very few foods have large amounts of naturally occurring vitamin D.  Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are among the best sources of vitamin D.  Beef liver, cheese, and egg yolk can also provide small amounts.  Mushrooms may also contain vitamin D, but only if grown under UV lights.  Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in our diets.  Most milk and cereals are fortified with vitamin D, as well as some types of orange juice, yogurt, cheese, and soy beverages.  Check the Nutrition Facts label for the content of vitamin D in foods.

The easiest way to increase your vitamin D level is by taking a supplement.  Those who need to take a supplement are individuals who may need extra vitamin D that they cannot get through diet and exposure to the sun.  As always, check with your health care provider before taking a vitamin D supplement because too much vitamin D can be harmful to the body.