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Talk with the Doc: Vitamin D, a nutrient we all need for good health

Dr. Jim Surrell, Journal columnist

Vitamin D is one of our essential human vitamins. The following brief valuable information about Vitamin D is from our USA National Institutes of Health (NIH). Vitamin D is a nutrient that we all need for good health. Vitamin D helps our body absorb calcium, and is one of our main building blocks for strong bones. Together with calcium, Vitamin D helps protect us from developing osteoporosis, a disease that thins and weakens our bones and makes them more likely to break. Our body needs Vitamin D for other functions too. Our muscles need Vitamin D to help us to move, and our nerves need it to carry messages between our brain and our body. Our immune system also needs Vitamin D to fight off invading bacteria and viruses.

So what some of the sources that can provide me with Vitamin D? Be aware that very few foods naturally have Vitamin D. Various fish such as trout, salmon, tuna, and mackerel are great sources of Vitamin D. It is believed that foods and drinks fortified with added Vitamin D provide most of the Vitamin D in most of our American diets.

What foods provide vitamin D? Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Fortified foods provide most of the Vitamin D in the diets of people in the United States. Because of our need for Vitamin D to help us stay healthy, it is important to check the nutrition facts on food and drink labels for the amount of Vitamin D in any food or beverage. The following is a review of some of the sources of Vitamin D.

Almost all of the U.S. milk supply is fortified with about 3 micrograms (120 IU) of Vitamin D per cup. Many plant-based alternatives such as soy milk, almond milk, and oat milk also Vitamin D. However, many foods made from milk, like cheese and ice cream, are usually not fortified with Vitamin D. Vitamin D is added to many breakfast cereals and to some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and other food products. Fatty fish (like trout, salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils are among the best natural sources of Vitamin D. Beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks have only small amounts of Vitamin D. Mushrooms provide a small amount of Vitamin D. However, some mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light will have increased Vitamin D content.

Be aware that we also can get Vitamin D from the sun. Our body makes Vitamin D when our bare skin is exposed to the sun. Most people get at least some of their Vitamin D this way. However, clouds, smog, and being in an environment with not much frequent sunshine may well reduce the amount of Vitamin D our skin makes. Also, be aware that our skin does not make Vitamin D from sunlight through a window.

The daily upper limits for Vitamin D are from the (NIH) and are listed below in micrograms (mcg) and international units (IU) based on our age.

Birth to 6 months – 25 mcg (1,000 IU)

Infants 7-12 months – 38 mcg (1,500 IU)

Children 1-3 years – 63 mcg (2,500 IU)

Children 4-8 years – 75 mcg (3,000 IU)

Children 9-18 years – 100 mcg (4,000 IU)

Adults 19 years and older – 100 mcg (4,000 IU)

Pregnant and breastfeeding teens and women – 100 mcg (4,000 IU)

Now, get out there and enjoy some Summer sunshine in our great Upper Peninsula. And yes, these are your “Doctor’s Orders”.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books.Contact Dr. Surrell by email at sosdietdoc@gmail.com.

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