Sun vs. Supplements: Where Should You Get Your Vitamin D?
If vitamin D deficiency is a regular occurrence in your family history, or if it’s something you’ve dealt with personally, getting enough vitamin D can become a concern. Many people who worry about their vitamin D levels wonder about the most efficient way to absorb healthy doses of this vital substance.
Let’s discuss the following sources of vitamin D: sunlight, supplements, and food.
Vitamin D from Sunlight
Going outside on a sunny day can provide you with a decent amount of vitamin D, which your body needs to function properly. However, extended sun exposure also increases your risk of developing skin cancer. This does not mean that you should avoid going outside all together, but spending time in the sun should always be done with sun protection in mind.
The absorption benefit does not outweigh the risk in this situation. Sunlight does not supply vitamin D better than food or supplements, so if you’re going to be outside, wear sunscreen.
Vitamin D from Supplements
There are two subtypes of vitamin D available if you take vitamin D supplements: vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Depending on the supplement, these vitamin types may be combined or isolated as standalone supplements (vitamin D3 is commonly sold as a standalone supplement).
For adults under 70 who do not have a vitamin D deficiency, the recommended dose of vitamin D is around 600 IU each day. Seniors over 70 should take about 200-400 IU each day. This amount is readily available in many vitamin supplements, including standalone vitamin D and multivitamin supplements.
In addition to the benefits of vitamin D (bone/muscle health, higher energy levels, etc.) that you can take advantage of with a simple supplement, getting your daily recommended dose this way also reduces the risk of developing skin cancer you’d take through constant sun exposure.
However, it’s still crucial to be careful when taking supplements. Watch your dosage, as too much vitamin D is hazardous. Excessive vitamin D intake can cause nausea, vomiting, musculoskeletal pain, and eventual kidney failure.
Vitamin D from Food
Many food types aren’t naturally rich in either vitamin D2 or D3. However, some foods contain a decent amount of D vitamins, and others have vitamin D added to them before they’re sold at stores. Fortified cereal, orange juice, and plant milk are good examples of foods rich in vitamin D.
Other foods that contain vitamin D2 or vitamin D3 include salmon, tuna, sardines, egg yolk, cod liver oil, cheese, mushrooms, and beef liver.
If you don’t enjoy most of these food types but are concerned about your vitamin D levels, it’s a good idea to discuss your options with your doctor. This is especially important if you find yourself experiencing common signs of low vitamin D, like fatigue, muscle weakness, bone pain, or depression.
A medical professional can test your vitamin D levels and help ensure that you’re getting the vitamin levels your body needs to function efficiently and effectively.