Dietitians highlight vitamin D benefits
"Vitamin D plays a much bigger role in the prevention of disease than originally thought," says Sherry Belcher, a Chicago nutrition counselor.
Vitamin D plays can build healthy bones by helping the body absorb calcium. It also appears to protect against these 11 diseases:
- gum disease
- multiple sclerosis
- muscle weakness
- mental decline in the elderly
- heart disease
- cancer of the breast, colon and prostate
In 1933, the United States implemented a Vitamin D milk fortification program to combat rickets, then a major public health problem. It virtually eliminated the disorder at that time. (Rickets is a childhood disease marked by soft or weak bones.)
Adults need 2 to 4 glasses of fortified milk each day to get minimum recommended levels of vitamin D: two glasses for people ages 19 to 50 and four for people 51 to 70. According to a recent study, 77 percent of teens and adults are deficient in vitamin D.
Sun exposure is one way to get vitamin D: 5 to 30 minutes twice a week produces sufficient amounts. "As a physician, I recommend SPF 30 or greater every time a person steps outside," she adds.
Belcher recommends clients have their levels tested and consider taking fish oil supplements for a boost. But a better way to obtain vitamin D, according to Dr. Christine Gerbstadt, spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association, is through fortified foods, including cow's milk and soy milk, orange juice, and cereals.
Not sure if you're getting enough vitamin D or other essential nutrients? A dietitian or nutrition consultant can assess the gaps, as well as help with meal planning and weight-loss goals. Check Angie's List for highly rated professionals.