Where’s the sun? And how important is it, really?

Learn the benefits—and sources—of the sunshine vitamin.
Pregnant in wintertime? Here's what you need to know. (For Spectrum Health Beat)
Pregnant in wintertime? Here’s what you need to know. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

As I look out the window today, it is overcast.

I do love the changing seasons and all that the midwest has to offer, but I miss the sun. Typically, where I am, we have 160 days of sun or part sun. That means we have 205 days that we might not see the sun.

Here’s what you need to know about vitamin D benefits:

  • It affects cell growth, immune function and reduces inflammation.
  • Helps with calcium and phosphorus absorption, which affects our bones. Without vitamin D our bones can become brittle, thin or misshapen.
  • It helps to build your baby’s bones and teeth. For baby, a deficiency in pregnancy can cause skeletal deformities or growth retardation. Researchers believe that a vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy can affect bone development and immune function from birth through adulthood.
  • A deficiency of vitamin D has also been linked to a greater risk of pregnancy complications, including preeclampsia, and a higher likelihood of an expectant mom needing a C-section.
  • It helps in the prevention of chronic diseases.
  • It helps regulation of cell growth and activity.
  • Studies are finding a correlation between low serum vitamin D level and several types of cancer.
  • Research in now coming out saying that, for a pregnant mom, adequate vitamin D levels can help reduce complications such as gestational diabetes, preterm birth and infection.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, 40-60 percent of the entire U.S. population is vitamin D deficient, including pregnant women.

The sun provides us with vitamin D, which is a fat-soluble vitamin. (Since it is fat soluble, please have your level checked before supplementing on your own). Vitamin D is natural in some foods, but more often we receive it from the sun or a supplement.

Best food sources of vitamin D:

  • Cod liver oil
  • Fish
  • Portabella mushrooms
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs, especially yolks
  • Orange juice that’s fortified with vitamin D
  • Liver
  • Cheese

Look for ways to add foods with vitamin D into your menu.

If you are concerned about your vitamin D level, ask your doctor. There is an easy blood test to check for vitamin D. Check with your doctor to see if this is something you need.

And, if there are sunny days this winter, be sure to get outside and enjoy them!

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