Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

By: Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

The sun is shining, days are longer and spring is just around the corner!  What a perfect time to put winter behind us and harness our favorite star’s goodness for boosting energy, health, wellness and just plain feeling great.  

How to Reap the Sun’s Rays:

One of the best ways to soak up the sun’s energy is by consuming more plants!  Eating and drinking a variety of colorful plant foods can help us boost our energy and benefit from the sunshine that feeds Earth’s plants which in turn provide us with life sustaining nutrients.

Drink in the sun with these delicious juices:

Vitamin D also known as the sunshine vitamin, is important for overall health and wellness.  The winter blues often known as SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is thought to be related to lack of Vitamin D when direct sunlight is not available in amounts needed to trigger our skin to produce this hormone naturally. 

Vitamin D is important for many health promoting properties such as:

  • Healthy bones and muscles
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Reducing inflammation

Low levels of Vitamin D are common in northern parts of the world, above the 37th parallel. For those of us in the US, that means anyone living north of Atlanta is at risk, not just people who reside in Minnesota or New England. 

Correcting insufficient Vitamin D levels may help with a host of ailments and disease risks including:

Which foods are rich in Vitamin D?

Vitamin D rich foods include:

  • Fish (Atlantic Herring, canned, wild salmon)
  • Fortified dairy or non-dairy beverages like almond milk, coconut milk, rice milk
  • Greek yogurt

Even with consumption of Vitamin D rich foods, it is often not enough to keep blood levels in a healthy range with certain risk factors, including:

  • Living in a northern region during winter months of November through March/April
  • Being overweight
  • Wearing sunscreen with at least 8 SPF during the summer months and/or having minimal skin exposed
  • Having darker skin
  • Being older
  • Exclusively breastfed infants

How do you know if you should take Vitamin D?

There is a blood test for Vitamin D called, 25 OH-D.  A level of 32ng/dL is considered sufficient however research suggests a slightly higher level, such as 40-50 ng/dL, may be optimal while levels at 80-100+ are considered too high and increase risk for toxicity and overall mortality. 

In general, supplementing with up to 2000 IU of Vitamin D3 per day during the winter and 1000 IU per day in the summer is a healthy range if you are risk for low Vitamin D levels, but always check with your doctor and nutritionist first to determine the right amount (if any) of supplementation for your personal situation.  The daily upper limit for supplements is 5000 IU per day.  Children should take anywhere from 400 IU per day to 1000 IU per day as well especially in winter months, but check with your pediatrician for more specific recommendations.

So get out there and enjoy the sun and make sure you are getting your natural Vitamin D (and take supplements if plentiful sunshine just isn’t possible in your busy schedule).

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Stacy Kennedy, MPH, RD, CSO, LDN; Reboot Nutritionist

Stacy is a Board Certified Specialist in Oncology Nutrition and an Integrative Nutritionist. She consults for various companies, focusing on health, wellness and innovative strategies to help increase individual’s fruit and vegetable intake. Stacy is an American College of Sports Medicine Certified Health Fitness Specialist; she holds a BS degree in Dietetics from Indiana University, completed her dietetic internship at Massachusetts General Hospital, and earned a Masters in Public Health from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is a Senior Clinical Nutritionist at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute/Brigham & Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School teaching affiliates, in Boston, MA, with more than 20 years of experience. Stacy created and now serves as project manager and lead writer for nutrition services content on the Dana Farber website and the affiliated, nationally recognized nutrition app. Stacy is regularly featured on TV, radio, print and social media on behalf of Dana Farber and other organizations. Together with her husband, Dr. Russell Kennedy PsyD, they have a private practice, Wellness Guides, LLC. Stacy is an adjunct professor in Wellness and Health Coaching at William James College, currently teaching a graduate course in Health Coaching. Stacy is featured in the award winning documentary films, “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead” and “Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2,” and serves on the Reboot with Joe Medical Advisory Board. Stacy lives in Wellesley with her husband, two sons and three dogs. She enjoys cooking, yoga, hiking and spending time with friends and family. Stacy is also one of the nutritionists who runs our Guided Reboot programs.

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