It's safe to say that you've at least heard of vitamin D ... and you may even know that it's very important to your health & wellness.
But most people fail to realize just how crucial this vitamin is when it comes to looking and feeling your best ... especially during the winter months.
I'd venture to say it's one of, if not the most important vitamin to your overall health ... and roughly 60-70% of Americans are not getting enough of it.
I know when I first heard that, it surprised me given how important vitamin D is for you.
What's even more surprising, is that even if you live the healthiest of lifestyles ... you're probably still not getting enough.
But I promise after you read this article & put the information to use ... you'll start to notice positive changes in your mood, energy levels, and overall health.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is what's known as a fat-soluble vitamin ... meaning it's absorbed and used like dietary fats. This also means that it doesn't dissolve in water.
There's 3 main ways you can take in vitamin D:
1) Sun Exposure - You naturally produce vitamin D with help of the UV rays that shine down from the sun. When those rays hit your skin ... it signals the production of vitamin D.
2) Diet - You can take in vitamin D through your diet by eating certain foods. Mainly fatty fish like salmon, sardines, swordfish ... and tuna. You'll also find dairy products, cereals, juices ... and many other foods with vitamin D added to them.
There's a couple things to note here. You can see that foods with vitamin D are not the most appetizing for the majority of people. Even someone like myself who likes fatty cuts of fish ... I just don't eat it often enough to get the vitamin D that I need.
And though it's great to see foods with added vitamin D ... there's a slight issue with that as well. Vitamin D2 is typically added to these foods ... which is a subtype of vitamin D. Your body has a much harder time absorbing that form compared to vitamin D3 ... which is the most bioavailable.
3) Supplementation - One of the most popular, most affordable ... and most effective supplements on the market today. More on vitamin D supplementation in bit.
What Does Vitamin D Help With?
To be honest ... it would be harder for you to name something that vitamin D doesn't help with. That's how important it is for your overall health.
Here's some of the main functions of vitamin D:
Immune System Health - This is a big one ... especially this time of year. In fact, there's a strong correlation between low levels of vitamin D and those who get sick often. Almost everyone who battles consistent sickness, cold, and flu ... has lower levels of vitamin D. This is because vitamin D increases white blood cell production ... as well as fights off inflammation that occurs when you're sick. (1,2,)
Calcium Absorption - Without vitamin D, your body cannot properly absorb calcium ... an important mineral for the health of your bones & teeth. Even if you're taking in plenty of calcium ... that won't matter much without vitamin D.
Teeth & Bone Health - Vitamin D is not only important for the absorption calcium for your bones & teeth ... it also plays a role in their growth & strength. Consistent poor levels of vitamin D can lead to very weak and brittle bones. This drastically increases the chances of breaking a bone ... and also increase your chances of suffering from diseases like Osteoporosis.
Cell Growth - Your body is always making new cells ... and recycling old cells. One of the biggest drivers of this process is vitamin D.
Disease Prevention - Low levels of vitamin D increase your risk of diseases like multiple sclerosis, heart disease, stroke, diabetes ... and hypertension. (3, 4)
Mood & Energy Levels - Also a big one this time of year. You've probably heard of or maybe even experienced what's called "seasonal depression". This is when your mood seems to drop in the winter months ... and it has a lot to do with you getting much less sunlight (aka much less vitamin D!). Proper intake of vitamin D has also been shown to fight anxiety and depression as whole ... in both children & adults. By taking in enough vitamin D, you can improve your mood and natural energy levels very quickly. (5)
Weight Loss - Yep ... vitamin D can even play a role in your physical fitness success. Those who have a higher body fat percentage also tend to have lower levels of vitamin D. There's also been studies comparing two groups that both followed the same weight loss plan ... with one group supplementing with vitamin D and calcium. The group that supplemented lost more weight. More research is needed here, but the boost in weight loss maybe due to possible appetite control effects ... and some hormone-balancing benefits as well. (6, 7)
Hormone Production - Vitamin D itself can be considered a hormone ... or what you'd call a precursor to certain hormones. It's used to regulate and produce serotonin, adrenaline, noradrenaline ... and dopamine in the brain. These are all hormones that play a large role in your mood ... which again shows why vitamin D is so important in making sure you feel your best.
You now have a much better understanding of why vitamin D is so important to your health...
But with the large majority of Americans not getting the proper amount ... what can you do to make sure you're taking in enough vitamin D?
Supplementing With Vitamin D
Earlier ... I mentioned some of the foods that contain vitamin D. They aren't the most appetizing options ... and remember that the foods with added vitamin D are usually not using the right form.
This is why vitamin D supplementation can be so effective. It's also one of the most affordable supplements on the market.
You'll find a few different types of vitamin D supplements, including:
Pills - The most commonly seen form of vitamin D. If you're going for a pill form ... shoot for a gel capsules. Capsules tend to break down easier ... which makes it so your body can more efficiently absorb the vitamin D. You can find capsule form vitamin D for as little as $10.
Liquid/Sublingual - This form of vitamin D is usually found in a dropper that's put under your tongue. This form is absorbed well ... and can also be found for around $10.
Liposomal - The most bioavailable and easily absorbed form of vitamin D that you can find. It's somewhat of a liquid ... but it's coated in a thick, fatty layer that amplifies your body's ability to absorb it. If you know you're low in vitamin D and want to get your levels up quickly ... this would be the form to choose. It is a little higher in price, but still extremely affordable and worth every penny.
With all of these vitamin D supplements ... always make sure you're getting vitamin D3. Like I said earlier, this is going to be the easiest form for your body to use.
When it comes to how much vitamin D you need per day ... you'll find a few general recommendations. I'd say you want AT LEAST 600 IU's (international units) per day. But some institutes, like the Endocrine Society, recommend anywhere from 1,500 IU's - 5,000 IU's. As you age ... your needs may increase to upwards of 10,000 IU's or more.
Now if you have questions about vitamin D, your nutrition plan, or anything health and fitness related ... our N.A.S.M Certified Sports Nutrition Specialists are always happy to help!
Just stop into your local Supplement Superstores location and we'll make sure you're taken care of.
*This article was written by Andrew Lynn, who has a Bachelor's of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. He is also a N.A.S.M. Certified Personal Trainer and N.A.S.M. Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist.
1. Martens PJ, Gysemans C, Verstuyf A, Mathieu AC. Vitamin D's Effect on Immune Function. Nutrients. 2020;12(5):1248. Published 2020 Apr 28. doi:10.3390/nu12051248
2. Grant WB, Lahore H, McDonnell SL, et al. Evidence that Vitamin D Supplementation Could Reduce Risk of Influenza and COVID-19 Infections and Deaths. Nutrients. 2020;12(4):988. Published 2020 Apr 2. doi:10.3390/nu12040988
3. Sintzel MB, Rametta M, Reder AT. Vitamin D and Multiple Sclerosis: A Comprehensive Review. Neurol Ther. 2018;7(1):59-85. doi:10.1007/s40120-017-0086-4
4. Saponaro F, Marcocci C, Zucchi R. Vitamin D status and cardiovascular outcome. J Endocrinol Invest. 2019;42(11):1285-1290. doi:10.1007/s40618-019-01057-y
5. Cheng YC, Huang YC, Huang WL. The effect of vitamin D supplement on negative emotions: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Depress Anxiety. 2020;37(6):549-564. doi:10.1002/da.23025
6. Lotfi-Dizaji L, Mahboob S, Aliashrafi S, Vaghef-Mehrabany E, Ebrahimi-Mameghani M, Morovati A. Effect of vitamin D supplementation along with weight loss diet on meta-inflammation and fat mass in obese subjects with vitamin D deficiency: A double-blind placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2019;90(1):94-101. doi:10.1111/cen.13861
7. Major GC, Alarie FP, Doré J, Tremblay A. Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and fat mass loss in female very low-calcium consumers: potential link with a calcium-specific appetite control. British Journal of Nutrition. 2008;101(5):659-663. doi:10.1017/S0007114508030808