July is UV Safety Month. It is time to put on the large brimmed hat, Jacqueline Kennedy sunglasses, long sleeved shirt and slather on the broad spectrum sunscreen. As we protect ourselves from the potent UVA and UVB rays, where does that leave us? Well, it prevents skin cancer, premature aging, eye damage, and Vitamin D synthesis. It is very important to protect your body and eyes from the sun, but it is just as important to get your Vitamin D. So if we should not synthesize Vitamin D by UV rays, then how do we get enough Vitamin D? The good news is there are plenty of ways to ensure you receive enough Vitamin D without compromising your UV Safety.
1) Consume 2-3 servings of low-fat, Vitamin D fortified dairy or dairy alternative (soy, almond, coconut, or rice milk) everyday
2) Drink 4 to 8 ounces of fortified orange juice (calcium and Vitamin D) daily
3) Choose swordfish, (Sockeye) salmon, or canned tuna (3 ounces) at least 2 times per week
4) Take a balanced supplement containing approximately 500mg of calcium and 100% to 200% of Vitamin D (based on Adequate Intake as part of the Dietary Reference Intakes)
5) Quickly down 1 tablespoon of Cod Liver oil every 1 to 3 days (Um, let me think about this one)
6) Get only 10 minutes of unprotected sun exposure daily during peak hours (not recommended)
I try to do all of the above at one point or another, but too much Vitamin D can be harmful too. In the summer, I skip my Vitamin D supplement if I receive enough outdoor exposure without full protection (shame on me). During the winter months, I consume approximately 2500 IU per day of supplemental Vitamin D3, which is well below the established Upper Limit of 4000 IU per day. Certain groups, such as the elderly and dark skinned individuals, are at higher risk for a Vitamin D deficiency regardless of the time of year.
Research has linked optimal serum Vitamin D levels to better health. Vitamin D may reduce the risk of some cancers, protect against bone loss (osteoporosis), lower blood pressure, and lower the incidence of some autoimmune disorders. Low Vitamin D levels have also been associated with an increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and bone fractures. Newer research has further suggested that Vitamin D (and calcium) may reduce stomach fat and is implicated for improved weight management. Keep tuned as Vitamin D research continues!
Do you know your Vitamin D level? If not, ask your physician to do the simple blood test at your next appointment so that you are informed. A Vitamin D deficiency is more common now as we protect ourselves from UV rays. Don’t worry, if your levels are low, it can be safely rectified for better health.