Maintaining your vitamin D levels: Should you be concerned?

Even with your focus on healthy eating habits, you still might be missing important nutrients like vitamin D from your diet. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, about 1 million people have inadequate vitamin D levels in their bodies.

Sources of vitamin D

Vitamin D does not occur naturally in many foods, but some surprising natural sources of vitamin D include fatty fish such as salmon, fish liver oils, and egg yolks. Dairy products and cereal are usually fortified with vitamin D, and vitamin supplements are available, to improve the likelihood of including vitamin D in your diet . Vitamin D is also produced by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight

Role of vitamin D in your diet

Vitamin D helps to form and maintain proper bone structures. It also helps in preventing conditions such as Types 1 and 2 diabetes, hypertension, and multiple sclerosis. Low vitamin D levels could increase your risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, cancer, and infectious diseases. As you understand the risk factors for vitamin D deficiency, you can take the necessary steps to ensure proper vitamin D levels in your body.

Some causes of vitamin D deficiency

Understanding the risks will help you include the correct mix of foods, and supplements where necessary, in your diet. There are a number of factors that could increase your risk of vitamin D deficiency, and here are some of the areas you should note:

1. Many factors reduce the amount of sunlight that you are exposed to daily. Since sunlight helps the human skin to produce vitamin D, spending most of your time indoors with little time outdoors in the sun could put you at risk of vitamin D deficiency. Also, even if you spend time outdoors, and you cover up your most of your body, this blocks sun from reaching your skin.

Sunscreens that are used to block harmful ultraviolet rays can also reduce the amount of sunlight that reaches your body. In addition, you might have limited exposure to the sun simply because of where you live. For example, if you live in the northern latitudes, during some seasons like winter, there’s little sunshine.

2. Your diet might be lacking in the foods that are natural or fortified sources of vitamin D. For example, if you are a strict vegetarian, your diet might lack foods such as fish, egg yolks, and cheese that are from animals. Unless you take steps to increase your vitamin D intake, such as taking supplements, this might result in a vitamin D deficiency.

3. If you are a Latino/Hispanic woman with a darker skin tone, you could be at risk of having low vitamin D levels. Since there is more melanin in darker skin, this slows down the process of making vitamin D.

4. If you are overweight , the fat cells take vitamin D from the blood, and so there is less available to be released in the body. This could put you at risk of vitamin D deficiency.

5. As you grow older, you are likely to have lower levels of vitamin D in your blood. As you age, your kidneys lose their ability to convert vitamin D into its active form.