Why is vitamin D important?
Vitamin D is not technically a vitamin since it is made by our skin when exposed to sunlight and it is found naturally in very few foods. Vitamin D is critical for bone health because it helps your body to absorb calcium from your blood. Many other areas of health including prevention of cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and depression are directly affected by Vitamin D. The bottom line is that Vitamin D for women is an important component of overall health.
Women’s Vitamin D Needs
Best Sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin D can be made by the skin when exposed to ultraviolet light from the sun. The sun exposure recommendations below are based on midday sun exposure (between about 10am-2pm) on major body parts (face, arms, legs) without sunscreen when sunburn is possible. Your distance from the equator and the time of year will impact your ability to make enough vitamin D from the sun.
Light skin: 10-15 min per day
Dark skin: 20 min per day
Older women: 30 min per day
This level of daily sun exposure is difficult for most women in the United States to achieve. During fall, winter, and spring only the southern most states get enough sunlight to allow your body to make enough vitamin D. Because of this, a vitamin D supplement is a good idea for most women.
How To Choose a Vitamin D Supplement
When you look for a vitamin D supplement, you’ll find two forms: ergocalciferol (D2) and cholecalciferol (D3). Vitamin D2 is plant-based usually from UV-treated mushrooms or yeasts, and Vitamin D3 is usually derived from fish oil or sheep’s wool (lanolin). Studies show that vitamin D3 may be more effective, so this is the type I usually recommend. If you want a plant-based version of vitamin D3, look for D3 derived from lichen.
Tips For Meeting Your Needs
Since we spend most of our time indoors, Vitamin D deficiencies are very common. With a little bit of planning and a few intentional changes, you can maintain healthy Vitamin D levels.
- Make a habit of taking a 15-30 min walk outside in the afternoon (remember to go when your shadow is shorter than you to make sure you get enough sun exposure!)
- Choose plant-based milks and juices that are fortified with vitamin D
- Ask to get your vitamin D levels checked regularly by your doctor
- Consider a vitamin D3 supplement of 600-1,000 IU