Time to get your drink on! Your drink on for milk of course!
Milk can be a great way to help you meet your needs for calcium, vitamin D, and protein, among other nutrients such as riboflavin and potassium.
As a dietitian, this is the time of year I begin to get concerned about people’s dietary intake of vitamin D. As you already can tell by the change in the weather, we are tilting further away from the sun. This means that you can no longer receive enough vitamin D from the sun. Thus, it is even more important that you focus on foods with vitamin D and let me tell you there are not too many foods with it, so thank goodness there is milk!
Milk can provide up to 25% of your daily needs of vitamin D.
You may find yourself wondering why is there all the talk about vitamin D, what is the big deal? Well, let me put it this way, vitamin D is THE BIG DEAL. Vitamin D is vital to a variety of functions in our body. Recent research is showing a positive correlation between Vitamin D and different disease states.
Vitamin D = Strong Bones.
I think most of you are aware that vitamin D helps you to have strong bones. The body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. Without enough vitamin D, one can’t form enough of the hormone calcitriol (known as the “active vitamin D”). This in turn leads to insufficient calcium absorption from the diet. In this situation, the body must take calcium from its stores in the skeleton, which weakens existing bone and prevents the formation of strong, new bone.
You can get vitamin D in three ways: through the skin, from the diet, and from supplements. Experts recommend a daily intake of 600 IU (International Units) of vitamin D up to age 70. Men and women over age 70 should increase their uptake to 800 IU daily, which also can be obtained from supplements or vitamin D-rich foods such as egg yolks, saltwater fish, liver, and fortified milk.
According to the National Institute of Health, here are some other functions of the body that vitamin D helps with:
- Immune system, which helps you to fight infection
- Muscle function
- Cardiovascular function, for a healthy heart and circulation
- Respiratory system –for healthy lungs and airways
- Brain development
- Anti-cancer effects
Doctors are still working to fully understand how vitamin D works within your body and how it affects your overall health.
A lack of vitamin D
If your body doesn’t get enough vitamin D to keep it healthy, this is called vitamin D deficiency. Severe vitamin D deficiency can sometimes cause a condition called rickets in children and a condition called osteomalacia in adults. Both of these conditions cause soft, thin, and brittle bones.
A lack of vitamin D has also been linked to some other conditions such as cancer, asthma, type-II diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, Crohn’s and type-I diabetes.
According to the Vitamin D Council, there are some groups of people that are more likely to have vitamin D deficiency. The following people are more likely to be lacking in vitamin D:
- People with darker skin. The darker your skin the more sun you need to get the same amount of vitamin D as a fair-skinned person. For this reason, if you’re Black, you’re much more likely to have vitamin D deficiency that someone who is White.
- People who spend a lot of time indoors during the day. For example, if you’re housebound, work nights or are in hospital for a long time.
- People who cover their skin all of the time. For example, if you wear sunscreen or if your skin is covered with clothes.
- People that live in the North of the United States or Canada. This is because there are fewer hours of overhead sunlight the further away you are from the equator.
- Older people have thinner skin than younger people and this may mean that they can’t produce as much vitamin D.
- Infants that are breastfed and aren’t given a vitamin D supplement. If you’re feeding your baby on breast milk alone, and you don’t give your baby a vitamin D supplement or take a supplement yourself, your baby is more likely to be deficient in vitamin D.
- Pregnant women.
- People who are very overweight (obese).
- The symptoms of vitamin D deficiency are sometimes vague and can include tiredness and general aches and pains. Some people may not have any symptoms at all.
- If you have a severe vitamin D deficiency you may have pain in your bones and weakness, which may mean you have difficulty getting around. You may also have frequent infections. However, not everyone gets these symptoms.
- If you think you may have vitamin D deficiency, you should see your physician, or have a blood test to check your vitamin D levels
I hope you now understand more fully why vitamin D is so important! If you get one thing out of this… drink your milk, and make sure it is low fat of course!
Peace and Wellness,
Coborn’s Registered Dietitian
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