In Wisconsin, we know that sunlight is a precious resource in the winter. With our long work weeks, busy school schedules, extracurriculars, and other hobbies, it can be hard to soak up enough sun during the colder, darker months of the year. Unfortunately for us northerners, we get most of our intake of Vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, which can be challenging during the winter. In fact, it’s so hard for us to get enough sunlight in the winter months that Vitamin D deficiency is endemic in Wisconsin.
Fortunately, we’ve officially passed into spring (although you might not know from looking outside) and should see more sun soon. Until we can spend more time soaking up those rays, there are other ways to keep our Vitamin D levels up!
Vitamin D is more than a vitamin; it actually acts as a hormone! Vitamin D plays an important role in calcium absorption and the maintenance of adequate serum calcium and phosphate levels, which assists in the growth of healthy bones and teeth. Without sufficient levels of Vitamin D, our bones may become weak or brittle over time.
Vitamin D also plays a vital role in our immune health, reducing inflammation and modulating cell growth & glucose metabolism. Research suggests a link between long-term Vitamin D deficiency and autoimmune disorders like multiple sclerosis and lupus. Low Vitamin D levels are also linked to depression, which may be another reason we feel extra low during the dark winter months.
Doing a little sunbathing is one of the best ways to get more Vitamin D, but if you live in a place that lacks adequate sunshine, you likely won’t be able to get the 15-30 minutes of daily midday sun on at least a third of exposed skin that you need to produce an optimal level of Vitamin D. (Unless you plan on lounging around in a snowbank in your swimsuit.) Plus, the darker your skin is, the longer the time necessary for maximum absorption from the sun. And let’s not forget that too much sun exposure comes with big risks too—sunburn and skin cancer are serious concerns when spending a lot of time in the sun. All of these factors make it difficult to get the necessary amount of Vitamin D your body needs from the sun alone.
Because it is a “fat-soluble” or fat-loving vitamin, Vitamin D is best absorbed when consumed with fat. Luckily some foods that have Vitamin D already contain a source of fat, which means they’re the perfect all-in-one food. Examples are salmon, tuna, chicken, eggs, sardines, liver, and trout. Other foods with high levels of Vitamin D include mushrooms, fortified dairy products, and fortified cereal. Getting your Vitamin D through food is an easy way to boost levels, but unless you plan on eating a steady diet of mushrooms and tuna salad sandwiches for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you still likely won’t get enough Vitamin D.
Vitamin D supplements are another good way to ensure your body produces enough of this essential nutrient. A good Vitamin D supplement taken daily can keep your Vitamin D levels healthy all year long.
Before choosing a Vitamin D supplement, research which dosage to take or consult with your doctor. Vitamin D is measured in micrograms (mcg) or international units (IU), and the recommended dosage for people ages 1 to 70 years old is 600 IU (15 mcg).
Dosage recommendations do vary by age. Check out the chart below for a full list of recommended dosages:
|Infants 0-12 months||400 IU (10 mcg)|
|People up to 70 years||600 IU (15 mcg)|
|People over 70 years||800 IU (20 mcg)|
If you’re browsing the supplements section at the pharmacy, you may notice Vitamin D bottles with dosages far exceeding the ones listed above. That’s because optimal Vitamin D intake varies widely based on age, skin color, season, and latitude. So an adequate amount of Vitamin D for someone in Wisconsin winter would be higher than someone near the equator. The upper limit for recommended Vitamin D intake is 4,000 IU per day, and you should consult with a medical professional if you think you need to go beyond that dose.
Though rare, Vitamin D consumption in excess can lead to high blood calcium levels, which causes bones to calcify and hardens the blood vessels, kidneys, lungs, and heart tissues. This serious reaction to an overdose of Vitamin D is unlikely to occur with dosages under 10,000 IU a day, but it’s still important to speak to a medical professional before going higher than the average recommended dosage.
If you’re feeling a little worn down by all the snow clouds still in the sky, stop by the FuelBar at Western and try our current seasonal smoothie —the Vitamin D-licious. Made with fortified orange juice, almond milk, and multivitamin powder, this fruity drink provides 65% of your daily recommended Vitamin D!
Stop by the FuelBar this week and get a dollar off the Vitamin D-licious smoothie when you mentioned this blog.
Visit the website to view our full menu of tasty smoothies, snacks, and more.
Hypertension affects millions of people in the United States. Do you struggle with keeping it in check? Rather than first focusing on what foods to avoid, let’s spend some time with what foods you can choose to help combat this condition.
Drinking beet juice reduces blood pressure both short and long term. Choose 1 cup of the juice every day for 4 weeks and keep track of your numbers. If you see them drop, it will be worth the effort.
As if you needed another reason to eat dark chocolate, but this sweet treat may lower your blood pressure. Be sure you choose 70% or greater cacao and consume a single square serving or 1 ounce each day.
Fruits such as berries, kiwis, guava and bananas are all excellent choices when trying to lower those blood pressure numbers. Berries such as blueberries and strawberries contain the antioxidant, anthocyanin, and this nutrient was found to be more prevalent in people with lower blood pressure. Kiwis and guavas are quite rich in Vitamin C with 70 mg packed into one medium kiwi and 125 mg in a guava. Researchers have found a correlation that consuming an average of 500 mg of Vitamin C per day may produce small reductions of blood pressure. Be aware that this far exceeds the recommended daily value of 90 mg Vitamin C, but know that it is a water-soluble vitamin so your body will excrete what it doesn’t use. How does vitamin C help? It may act as a diuretic, removing excess fluid from your body. This may help lower the pressure within your blood vessels. Bananas have long been touted for the potassium they contain. This mineral is very important in managing hypertension. According to the American Heart Association, potassium reduces the effects of sodium and alleviates tension in the walls of the blood vessels.
Speaking of sodium, now that is one nutrient that is usually given the blame in relation to high blood pressure. If you are struggling with hypertension, monitor your sodium levels. The American Heart Association encourages your sodium levels to be no more than 2300 mg (1 tsp.) of salt a day and an ideal limit of fewer than 1500 mg per day for most adults, especially those with high blood pressure.
Alcohol can also play a role in your pressure numbers. While consuming a small amount of red wine has been proven to help with heart health, using too much alcohol can cause havoc on your pressure numbers.
Finally, you know that caffeine is a stimulant. However, let’s think about this for a bit. The caffeine you consume in coffee, tea, soda or energy drinks can cause a short-term spike in your blood pressure. The review of five trials found that drinking up to 2 cups of strong coffee can increase both systolic and diastolic blood pressure for 3 hours after consumption. The good news is that this short-term increase is just that, short-term, and the findings didn’t show that it caused a long-term increase in your blood pressure. At the very least, plan when you take your blood pressure and try to avoid caffeine use a few hours before.
Hope these tips help in keeping those numbers within the normal range.
Debbie Guenterberg MS, RDN, CD
Prevea Health Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Food additives are very present in our food supply. When is the last time you looked at a nutrition label strictly for food additives? Of course, it is always important to pay attention to the entire nutrition label focusing in on added sugar, calories, saturated fat, etc. However, I want to draw closer attention to the ingredient list on products and provide a few tips.
You may already know that ingredients are listed from the ones with the highest amounts added to the lowest. However, even if they are on the bottom of the ingredient list, there are additives you want to avoid completely. Please refer to the Chemical Cuisine web site and look at the key and the ingredients that are placed within the following categories.
Safe: The additive appears to be safe
Caution: May pose a risk and needs to be better tested. Try to avoid.
Cut back: Not toxic, but large amounts may be unsafe or promote bad nutrition.
Certain people should avoid: May trigger an acute, allergic reaction, intolerance or other problems.
Avoid: Unsafe in amounts consumed or is very poorly tested and not worth any risk.
If you have specific questions regarding one of the additives, the site provides a relatively lengthy description of why it was placed within a certain category. Too often, in an effort to eat healthfully, you may be choosing chemically ridden foods. I encourage you to use this resource as a reference and to expand your nutrition knowledge.
Debbie Guenterberg MS, RDN, CD
Prevea Health Registered Dietitian Nutritionist