Vitamin D plays an essential part in our immune function and bone health, but decreased access to the outdoors during the pandemic may be leaving many Americans at risk.
The Covid-19 pandemic and nationwide stay-at-home orders have affected nearly every aspect of our lives, including how and what we eat. Experts agree that new physical limitations as well as widespread anxiety and depression can complicate efforts to maintain a healthy, balanced diet. Indeed, as Americans spend an unprecedented amount of time indoors this year, one of the biggest dietary effects may be a deficiency in vitamin D.
Why is vitamin D important?
In addition to being essential for healthy bones, teeth and muscles, vitamin D plays an important part in our immune system. Studies suggest that vitamin D may help fight off and limit the severity of infections by increasing immune function and inhibiting inflammatory responses, especially in respiratory illnesses. While there is no conclusive evidence that vitamin D can prevent or treat COVID-19, a troubling correlation has emerged between vitamin D deficiency and patients experiencing acute symptoms of the virus. The bottom line is that ensuring you’re getting enough vitamin D contributes to your overall health and may help you avoid more serious complications should you become infected with COVID-19.
Who is affected?
Even before the pandemic, an estimated 40% of Americans were deficient in vitamin D, according to a 2011 study. Black Americans are at even greater risk, with 82% of the Black study participants presenting vitamin D deficiency. Other people at risk for vitamin D deficiency include those with autoimmune diseases, those with limited access to sunlight, the elderly and people of color, but many more Americans may be at risk due to a significant decrease in outdoor time during the pandemic. We typically receive about 80% of our vitamin D from the sun and 20% from diet so in the absence of sufficient sunlight, health experts recommend supplementing in other ways.
How can we compensate?
To boost your vitamin D intake, you can take a daily vitamin supplement and eat foods that are rich in vitamin D like fatty fish (e.g. salmon, sardines, canned tuna), egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified foods (some milks, yogurts, orange juices and even cereals are fortified with vitamin D). In sun-limited conditions, consuming between 1000-4000 IU, or 25-100 micrograms, of vitamin D daily is recommended. Vitamin D supplements can be purchased at most pharmacies in concentrations of 1000-5000IU, in pill or gummy form and in kid-friendly doses. While doctors agree that it is difficult to obtain your daily vitamin D needs from diet alone, adding more vitamin D-rich foods to your routine can bolster your intake as well as provide other essential nutrients to keep you and your family strong and healthy. Try some tasty vitamin D-rich recipes below:
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