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Is your family getting enough vitamin D?

Current data indicates that more than half of us are deficient and that is tough to hear, especially as evidence continues to arise pinpointing benefits beyond bone health alone.

This ‘vitamin’ is actually not a vitamin at all, rather a prohormone that is transformed into a vitamin by our skin in thanks to the sun. What happens during the darker days of winter? Research shows that vitamin D levels drop to their lowest levels February through April. That means those of us North of the equator are only just beginning to lose our stored amounts. Though I must mention that even if you live in the Sunshine State you may not be safe from vitamin D losses. Despite your geographical location, sunscreen and long sleeves tend to cover up our skin most of the time, therefore reducing your skin’s ability to create this vital nutrient.

It is no wonder the majority if of us are missing out!

What does vitamin D do?

We have long known vitamin D as being essential for bone health. I remember teaching a group of ladies about how to reduce their risk of osteoporosis, describing vitamin D as the ‘key’ to unlocking the door on our bones to allow calcium inside. A perhaps oversimplified way of explaining how vitamin D helps to build strong bones… but it worked!

What is exciting is that 2015 continues to bring increasing evidence of additional benefits. We are now learning that low levels of vitamin D may increase the risk of diabetes, ADHD, heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and certain types of cancer. One of my favorite child nutrition experts, Maryanne Jacobsen RDN, wrote about the health benefits of much greater detail here. 

What foods contain vitamin D?

Thankfully vitamin D is found in more than cod liver oil alone (meh!). Families can serve up this micronutrient in the form of salmon (canned or fresh), certain types of mushrooms (those grown under UV light) and fortified milk (most forms are fortified nowadays, whether from a cow, soybean, or almond).

When it comes to our kiddos, some of these foods can be a bit tricky to make sure we are providing enough to meet the daily recommended amount of vitamin D. But this vitamin is being added to some beverages, snack foods, and breakfast cereals, just read the Nutrition Facts Panel to know for sure.

What about supplements?

Of course, there are always vitamin D supplements to help ensure we are getting enough, a tool the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for babies and children. In fact, the AAP encourages all nursing moms to supplement with 400 IU for their babies as vitamin D does not appear to be high enough in breastmilk (some pediatricians may recommend even higher amounts for mom, though 400 IU is perfect for baby, I used this one with ease). This same amount is recommended for baby once they begin to wean off of breast milk because while infant formula is fortified, baby needs at least 1 liter or 1 quart of fortified formula or milk per day to ensure they are getting enough.

How do I make sure my family is getting enough?

For me, I try my best to serve grilled salmon, corny salmon cakes (thank you, Meal Makeover Moms!), mushrooms, and milk on a regular basis. We are far from perfect, but I’m trying. Case in point, my toddler is going strong on his 12 months (and counting!) stand-off against milk in a cup (if only he could drink out of a bottle forever 😉 ). And he is not always thrilled at the idea of salmon, but I will continue to serve it even if he tells me he doesn’t like it.

What about you and your family? How do you make sure you’re getting enough? 

Thanks for reading!