Don't forget about vitamin D

A healthy lifestyle includes ensuring you’re spending enough time in the sun or eating vitamin D fortified foods.

Eating nutritious foods help strengthen your immune system and can help keep your body working at peak performance. To achieve this outcome, a variety of nutrients need to be consumed. One of these nutrients is vitamin D. Since vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin it is stored in your body fat and does not need to be consumed every day.

What does vitamin D do for you? Vitamin D is crucial for the absorption of calcium into your bones. Without an adequate intake of vitamin D your body is unable to absorb the amount of calcium needed to produce healthy bone growth and repair. This is especially important during childhood when bones are growing in length and strength. Just like a lack of calcium can affect your bones, a lack of vitamin D can also cause conditions like osteoporosis.

The best way to get your vitamin D is from exposure to sunshine. Vitamin D is made by your body when skin is exposed to sun light for at least 15 minutes. Skin at this point should not have sun screen on, so wait 15 minutes and then apply the sun screen. If you live in an area where the sun shines almost every day, you would only need to expose your skin about three times a week. However, if you live in an area that is prone to cloudy weather, you should try to be in the sun as often as possible.

Unfortunately there are not many foods that are good sources of vitamin D. In the United States, some foods are fortified with vitamin D including all types of milk. However, foods made from milk like cheese are not fortified. If you drink a milk substitute such as soy or almond milk, check the label to ensure that what you’re drinking has been fortified with vitamin D. Other foods that are often fortified include orange juice, yogurt and breakfast cereal. The best food source of Vitamin D comes from eating fatty fish like salmon and tuna. Egg yolks, cheese, beef, liver and mushrooms also contain small amounts.

If you’re concerned about your intake of vitamin D, check with your health care provider before starting to take a supplement on your own. A simple blood test can determine your vitamin D level, and your health care provider can advise you on how much supplemental vitamin D you may need to take.

Part of achieving a healthy lifestyle is stopping to ask yourself, “Have I spent some time in sunshine today or have I had a food that is fortified with or a good source of vitamin D?” If the answer is no, head outdoors or choose to eat a fortified food at your next snack or meal.

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