When it comes to nutrition, you know the importance of consuming plenty of vitamins and minerals. By doing so, your body can function properly and you can feel your best. However, the specifics of nutrition and vitamin consumption can get confusing. And this is especially true for vitamin D.

You likely hear about this essential nutrient often and know that you might not get enough of it in the winter. But how much of it do you actually need? This guide will demystify the importance of vitamin D and how you can get the right amount.

What is the function of vitamin D?

By consuming enough vitamin D, you can help your body absorb calcium. This keeps your bones strong, promoting bone growth and healing. While this is perhaps the most familiar function of vitamin D, studies have uncovered other purposes. Individuals with higher levels of this essential nutrient may have a lower risk of certain cancers, depression, diabetes, heart disease, and weight gain. It also promotes health pregnancy, reducing the risk of complications like preeclampsia and gestational diabetes. And when a mother has proper vitamin D levels during pregnancy, her baby may be healthier after birth.

How much vitamin D do you need to consume?

When determining how much vitamin D you should include in your daily diet, be sure to talk to your doctor. However, you can consider some standard recommendations. The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults consume at least 600 IU (international unit) or 15 mcg (micrograms) of vitamin D per day. Individuals over 70 should consume 800 IU or 20 mcg, and babies under 1 should consume 400 IU or 10 mcg. If you have specific health concerns or have experienced vitamin D deficiency in the past, your doctor may recommend that you increase your intake.

What are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency?

Vitamin D deficiency will present different symptoms for everyone, so it’s essential to speak with your doctor about your own risk. They will likely run a blood test to check your vitamin levels. For most adults, the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include frequent fatigue, frequent colds, bone loss, slow wound healing, hair loss, back pain, and bone or muscle pain. If you are experiencing any combination of these symptoms, be sure to see a medical professional. They will rule out other causes and recommend proper supplementation.

What are the sources of vitamin D?

One of the best ways to ensure vitamin D intake is to get plenty of sun. The skin naturally produces vitamin D when it is exposed to the sun, so individuals in colder climates may be more at risk for deficiency. Fortunately, you can also consume plenty of vitamin D through food sources. Some of these foods include fish such as cod and salmon, fortified milk, fortified orange juice, yogurt, eggs, fortified cereals, and cheese. If you do not eat animal products or do not get enough vitamin D from your food, you can also take supplements. Talk to your doctor about which dietary supplement manufacturers they recommend. By taking your supplement regularly, eating some of the above foods, and safely increasing your sun exposure, you can absorb plenty of vitamin D.

The importance of nutrients such as vitamin D emphasize how a healthy diet and dietary supplements can lead to increased wellness. By paying attention to your symptoms and seeing your doctor for testing, you can identify any deficiencies and get your nutrition back on track. This will lead to a healthy life of staying active and feeling your best.