You've probably heard all about the immunity benefits of vitamin C, but today it's time to move one letter down the alphabet. It turns out that vitamin D is also crucial when it comes to fighting off colds. An important part of Dr. Oz's anti-aging checklist, vitamin D plays a number of roles in our bodies, including:
- Promoting absorption of calcium and bone health
- Boosting immune function
- Reducing inflammation
- Healthy neuro-muscular function
- Protecting against some forms of cancer
For such an amazing nutrient, vitamin D doesn't always get the attention it deserves, perhaps because very few foods in nature contain vitamin D. The best sources are salmon, tuna and mackerel (especially the flesh) and fish liver oils. Beef liver, cheese and egg yolks also contain small amounts. If these foods don't sound very appealing to you, there is good news: You don't have to eat vitamin D to make sure you're getting your daily dose! Vitamin D is actually produced in your body when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike your skin. The UV rays trigger synthesis of vitamin D, which then gets converted in your liver into its active form.
This means one of the best ways to get vitamin D is to spend about 10-15 minutes a day outside in the sun. Those with darker skin tones may want to spend about two to three times longer than that in the sun. Keep in mind that wearing sunscreen will make it harder for your skin to make enough vitamin D. In the summertime, an easy solution is skipping sunscreen on your legs for the first 15 minutes in the sun. Just make sure you apply in time to prevent any burns or damage.
If this sounds complicated (or it's cloudy!), there's an even easier way to get your vitamin D: Many foods in the American diet are fortified with this essential nutrient. In fact, fortified foods provide the majority of vitamin D in our diets. Almost all of the US milk supply is fortified with 100 units per cup, and that's about 25% to 50% of the recommended daily dose! This means milk packs a double punch for bone strength. Milk contains a good amount of calcium and the additional vitamin D to ensure that your body absorbs all that calcium. Many companies also fortify soy or almond milk with vitamin D. Compare nutrition labels at the supermarket.
So exactly how much Vitamin D should you aim for each day? For all ages, the Institute of Medicine recommends getting between 600 and 800 IU per day. Dr. Oz recommends 1000 IU.
So if preventing colon, prostate and breast cancers, building strong bones, fighting off colds and slowing aging sound like a good deal to you, look for it all in one simple package: vitamin D.