Vitamin D is one of the most essential vitamins for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles. Short exposure to sunlight is known as the best source of Vitamin D. Still, many people are not aware of how to compensate for the lack of sunlight, based on their location and skin color, and ensure that they are not deficient in Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is a different, yet very essential, for our body vitamins. While we get the majority of our vitamins from the foods we eat, our bodies can produce Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Without a doubt, there are also Vitamin D-rich foods and soluble supplements that can replace sunlight exposure and help our bodies in the synthesis of Vitamin D.
Exposing our skin to sunlight for about 20 minutes every day will provide enough of the recommended dietary intake of Vitamin D. Even so, how can we get Vitamin D in areas without sunlight, or how can we compensate for Vitamin D deficiency during the winter? These, and many other Vitamin D-related questions, have become increasingly popular in recent Covid times.
Before answering the main questions regarding alternative sources of Vitamin D, let’s go through some of the main benefits of this Vitamin.
Benefits if Vitamin D
Vitamin D can support our bones and improve bone health. In fact, Vitamin D can increase the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, which are both very important for healthy bones and teeth. For this reason, many Vitamin D soluble supplements will include a combination of Vitamin D and the mineral calcium, a vital blend, especially for vegans.
Vitamin D can reduce the risk of Diabetes Type 1 and 2. Recent research showed that people with vitamin D deficiency (hypovitaminosis D) are more likely to develop insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome. This is to say that if we are deficient in Vitamin D, our body’s cells are unable to absorb glucose, causing it to accumulate in the blood and raise blood sugar levels.
Interestingly, Vitamin D is also able to improve our mood and help us lose weight faster. According to one study, the deficiency of Vitamin D was associated with a higher risk of anxiety and depression. Another study showed that people who took Vitamin D supplements during their diet were able to lose more pounds, compared to the control group, who was on the same diet without Vitamin D supplements.
Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI)
The recommended dietary intake (RDI) of Vitamin D daily is 600 IU for adults and pregnant women. However, it is usually safe to take 1000 to 2000IU daily. In fact, most Vitamin D supplements will contain at least 1000IU, but we should be always cautious about taking Vitamin D supplements in the summer.
In fact, during summer, our body will need about 20 to 30 minutes of sunlight exposure in order to produce 600IU of Vitamin D. Therefore, during the summer, it is wiser to control the intake of additional soluble Vitamin D supplements. Also, some foods that we can snack on under the sun, can add to our RDI of Vitamin D.
Foods rich in Vitamin D
- Oily fish – salmon
- Egg yolks
- Canned tuna
- Cow’s milk
- Diary products
Vitamin D in different parts of the world
Obviously, the sun is the main natural source of Vitamin D for our body. The different weather will demand different doses of Vitamin D. For example, in countries like Norway or Finland, there is no sun for almost 6 months. However, in other countries like Australia, the sun is shinning every day.
Controlling how much Vitamin D we need will definitely depend on our geographical location. In some areas without sunlight, even daily doses of up to 3000 or 4000IU Vitamin D will be safe and sufficient. However, we won’t need any Vitamin D supplements at all, if we live in a sunny country, and we should be cautious to not overdose on Vitamin D.
Knowing when to expose ourselves to the sun is also important. Sun, except a natural source of benefits, is also a detriment that we should be aware of.
In fact, sunbathing in the morning hours, is less dangerous, and still gives us the required RDI of Vitamin D. Sun exposure around the noon hours will provide us with the necessary Vitamin D faster, but we will have to risk the danger of UVB rays causing damage to our skin. Sun lotions that we will use for protection may also affect the synthesis of Vitamin D.
Clothing and sun-blocking creams may prevent our body from getting the required RDI of Vitamin D. There is not much evidence on how cosmetics will slow down the synthesis of Vitamin D from sunlight. Even so, it is recommended to do sunbathing naked, fully exposed to the sun, and avoid sun-blocking cosmetics.
Vitamin D according to skin color
Skin color is the second factor that will determine how much sunbathing or soluble Vitamin D we will need to make up for the daily RDI. Evidence suggests that people with darker skin can’t get enough Vitamin D as easily as most Caucasians. While Caucasians need approximately 30 minutes of sunbathing to obtain the required Vitamin D, people with darker skin will need at least an hour.
Generally, Vitamin D is a very safe vitamin, and it is not common to overdose on Vitamin D. Therefore, many brands offer even 4000IU doses of Vitamin D soluble supplements. However, it is always wise to consider: Do we still need to supplement with Vitamin D, if we can acquire it from natural sources daily?
In the long run, some of the side effects of Vitamin D can be headache, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, bone loss, and others. Sometimes, in fact, we feel the same way after too long sunbathing.
Because Vitamin D aids calcium absorption, an excess of Vitamin D can result in high levels of calcium stored in our blood, a condition known as hypercalcemia. Hypercalcemia is not dangerous in most mild cases, but it can progress to a more dangerous condition in others.