Whether you get it from foods, supplements or exposure to sunshine, vitamin D is essential for good health. Women with minimal sun exposure, which triggers natural production of vitamin D in the body, need 600 international units of vitamin D daily, says the Office of Dietary Supplements. Fish, such as salmon and tuna, are top food sources, followed by fortified foods, such as low-fat milk, yogurt and cereals. Because vitamin D supplements can cause side effects, talk to your doctor before use.
Lower Body Fat
Consuming enough vitamin D could lower your risk for undesirable weight gain and obesity. In a study published in the "Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism" in January 2009, researchers analyzed the blood levels of vitamin D and body fat in 90 young women. Approximately 60 percent of participants who were vitamin-D deficient had significantly more body fat than women who were not deficient. Although other factors are also important for body fat control, for example, eating a balanced diet and exercising regularly, meeting your daily vitamin D needs could enhance the process.
Your bones rely on the mineral calcium for strength and vitality. Vitamin D helps your digestive system absorb calcium and maintains normal calcium levels in your blood. Without enough vitamin D, your bones can become brittle, thin and deformed, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin D paired with calcium lowers your risk for osteoporosis later on -- a chronic disease that greatly increases the risk of bone fractures in older women. Foods rich in calcium and vitamin D include low-fat dairy products, fortified orange juice, and fish, such as canned tuna.
Positive Mental Health
A lack of vitamin D could contribute to depressive and anxious moods as well as emotional disorders, such as major and seasonal depression. Although research is ongoing, registered dietitian Sari Greaves says vitamin D may increase levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin in your brain, leading to happier, stabilized moods. For best results, incorporate vitamin D-rich foods into balanced meals and snacks that are consumed at reasonable time intervals. Going too long without eating can leave you cranky.
Low vitamin D levels throughout pregnancy is linked with childhood rickets and longer-term diseases, including schizophrenia and type one diabetes. In a study published in the "British Journal of Nutrition" in 2009, researchers analyzed the vitamin D levels of 29 pregnant women at 12, 20 and 35 weeks of gestation. Compared to non-pregnant women, pregnant women showed significantly lower levels of vitamin D. If you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant, discuss the potential need for vitamin D supplementation with your doctor.
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin D Fact Sheet
- Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism; Vitamin D Status and Its Relationship to Body Fat, Final Height, and Peak Bone Mass in Young Women
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Good Mood Foods to Fight Winter Blues
- British Journal of Nutrition; Vitamin D Deficiency and Insufficiency in Pregnant Women: A Longitudinal Study
August McLaughlin is a health and sexuality writer, podcast host and author of “Girl Boner: The Good Girl’s Guide to Sexual Empowerment” (Amberjack Publishing, 2018). Her articles appear in DAME Magazine, Cosmopolitan.com, the Huffington Post and more, and she loves connecting with readers through her blog and social media. augustmclaughlin.com