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Family Nutrition

Pump Up da “D”

Do you live in the northwest, northeast or Midwest? If you live above the 37th parallel (anything that isn’t “the south”), this winter has been a tough one. When you haven’t been shoveling, you’ve been hunkered indoors due to the cold temperatures. While you were hiding, you were losing vitamin D. If so, you need to pump up your vitamin D intake to avoid health problems.

Why Do We Need Vitamin D?
Did you know that vitamin D is not strictly a vitamin? That’s because vitamin D can by synthesized in your body either through ingestion (eating or drinking it) or through skin absorption (exposure to sunlight). Vitamin D is more properly a hormone.
No matter how you define it, the dangers of a lack of vitamin D are clear. In children, lack of vitamin D, as well as calcium, can lead to a condition called rickets. Rickets impacts the bones, causes legs to become weak and bowed, and is common in developing countries.

In adults, lack of vitamin D can weaken the immune system making a person more susceptible to contagious viruses or diseases. In older adults, the impact is on both the immune system and the bones, which can become soft (osteomalacia) and achy.

In the “olden days” (pre-1900) people tended to spend time outdoors more often, even in the colder months. In our modern era we can hide from the cold weather and miss our daily infusion of vitamin D. A recent survey showed 68% of people surveyed thought they were getting enough daily vitamin D, although only 32% actually received the daily recommended intake. Oops.

Those most at risk for vitamin D deficiency include:
  • Breastfed infants
  • People who have undergone gastric bypass surgery
  • People with dark skin
  • People with inflammatory bowel disease
  • People with limited sun exposure (above the 37th parallel)
  • Senior citizens

How to Boost Your Vitamin D
Vitamin D also enhances calcium absorption, which promotes healthy teeth as well as bones. There are several easy ways to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D.

Take a pill. A vitamin D supplement during the winter months will do the trick. Check your multivitamin to see if it meets the recommended daily allowance.

Get outside. The recommended amount of daily sunshine time depends upon the time of year and where you live. As a guideline, if you are fair skinned and live north of San Francisco, Nashville and Virginia Beach, you need just 10 minutes of body exposure (shorts, tank top, and no sunscreen). If you have dark skin, you need six times that amount.

Eat vitamin D rich food. The top 10 foods that are rich in vitamin D are:
  • Cod Liver Oil
  • Oily Fish (trout, smoked salmon, mackerel and tuna for example)
  • Mushrooms (Portobello mushrooms are great)
  • Fortified Cereals (Whole Grain Total or Raisin Bran)
  • Tofu (firm and lite)
  • Caviar (tastes great, costs a lot)
  • Dairy Products (Queso Fresco, butter, buttermilk, low fat fruited yogurt)
  • Pork (extra lean ham, spare ribs, turkey & pork sausage)
  • Eggs (hard boiled, poached or scrambled)
  • Dairy Alternatives (plain soy yogurt, soymilk, almond milk, rice drink)
Although there is not yet any scientific proof, health researchers are looking at vitamin D as a source of prevention for heart disease and other diseases. It’s easy to get your vitamin D amount on a daily basis, so why not do it?

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