To get your daily dose, look at what's on the menu
Getting a D when you were in school wasn't a good sign. You may have even done that sneaky little trick of adding an extra bubble and making it into a B. Not that I did that or anything.
But there's also a good kind of D - the vitamin form of the consonant. Vitamin D brings a lot of benefits to your body. It strengthens your immune system, is linked to maintaining a healthy weight, and may reduce risk for multiple sclerosis or the severity of its effects.
And there's more. "Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus to help build and maintain strong bones," says Kim Alvari, R.D., a registered dietitian and director of Food and Nutrition Services at Washington Hospital. "This lowers your risk of osteoporosis, a disease that causes your bones to be fragile, increasing your risk of breaks as you age.
One of the easiest ways to get vitamin D is to spend time in the sun, but that contradicts the other message you've been inundated with, which says sunscreen and shade should be your best friends and that UV rays can cause cancer (this is true, by the way).
Fortunately, there are other ways to get your recommended 600 IUs (international units) of vitamin D a day (that's for men and women ages 1 to 70 - babies need a little less, and adults older than 70 need a little more).
Alvari says fortified foods such as milk, orange juice and cereal are good sources of vitamin D. Almost all U.S. milk is fortified with 100 IUs per cup, according to the National Institutes of Health.
Other good vitamin D sources, Alvari says, are cod liver oil and fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna and sardines.
Not Enough D?
The symptoms of vitamin D deficiency may be so subtle and wide-ranging that it's difficult to link them to the condition. They include chronic bone pain, muscle weakness, more frequent infections, weakened bones (which you may not notice until one breaks) and even depression. Prolonged vitamin D deficiency can lead not only to osteoporosis but, Alvari says, it also puts you at higher risk for hypertension, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, certain cancers and multiple sclerosis.
Getting enough vitamin D in your diet might not be enough. If you have concerns, talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement. "You may also want to work with a registered dietitian to personalize a diet plan," Alvari says. Most important, remember that a deficiency can be avoided if you act soon enough.
For information about nutrition counseling services available at Washington Hospital, visit www.whhs.com/nutrition or call (510) 745-6542.
Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?
Find out if you're getting enough vitamin D every day by taking this 10-question quiz at getyourd.com and by clicking "Are You D-Prived?"
Your D-Fortified Shopping List
Adults need 600 IUs of vitamin D a day. To keep your bones strong, consider adding these foods to your grocery list:
Salmon, 3 ounces ... 447 IUs
Milk, vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup ... 100 IUs
Tuna fish, canned in water, 3 ounces ... 154 IUs
Egg, 1 large ... 41 IUs
Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup ... 137 IUs
Yogurt, vitamin D-fortified, 6 ounces ... 88 IUs
Try this Heart Smart Recipe!
Baked salmon with Southeast Asian marinade
Dietitian's tip: Salmon works well on the grill. After you've wrapped the fish in aluminum foil, grill until firm and opaque throughout, about 10 minutes on each side. Serve on couscous with steamed green beans on the side.
1/2 cup pineapple juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
2 salmon fillets, each 4 ounces
1/4 teaspoon sesame oil
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup diced fresh fruit, such as pineapple, mango and papaya
In a small bowl, add the pineapple juice, garlic, soy sauce and ginger. Stir to mix evenly.
Arrange the salmon fillets in a small baking dish. Pour the pineapple juice mixture over the top. Put in the refrigerator and marinate for 1 hour. Turn the salmon periodically as needed.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Lightly coat 2 squares of aluminum foil with cooking spray. Place the marinated salmon fillets on the aluminum foil. Drizzle each with 1/8 teaspoon sesame oil. Sprinkle with pepper and top each with 1/2 cup diced fruit.
Wrap the foil around the salmon, folding the edges down to seal. Bake until the fish is opaque throughout when tested with the tip of a knife, about 10 minutes on each side. Transfer the salmon to warmed individual plates and serve immediately. Serves 2.
Nutritional Analysis (per serving): Calories 310, Total Fat 13g, Saturated Fat 3g, Monounsaturated fat 4g, Carbohydrate 24g, Fiber 1 g, Protein 23g, Cholesterol 67mg, Sodium 174mg