You will not absorb your Vitamin D supplements without eating this with it

America is not getting enough Vitamin D

Vitamin D supplements are the second most popular supplement used by Americans today, behind only multivitamins. (1) The biggest reason? Many are deficient. An estimated 42% of Americans are not getting their daily recommended vitamin D. The main cause is lack of quality sun exposure, as vitamin D is predominantly produced and absorbed when your bare skin soaks in sunlight. After your skin absorbs UV B radiation from the sun, a vitamin D precursor is converted into its active form to then be utilized by your body. However, many Americans do not get outside enough to enable this reaction. Compared to 2008, we collectively went outside 1 BILLION times fewer in 2018! (2) We have our new lifestyles to blame for this, as technology pushes us indoors more and more. Besides going outside more, which is good for all facets of health, a simple solution that many use is to take a vitamin D supplement. The problem is that they are not taking the supplement correctly, and with winter fast approaching along with COVID restrictions, practicing proper intake recommendations is more important than ever for your health.

Why is Vitamin D so important to your health?

The primary function of vitamin D is to help maintain calcium phosphorus levels for healthy bone development and maintenance. (2) This is why as people get older, vitamin D levels become even more important as they can help prevent fractures and the development of osteoporosis.

Beyond the main function of bone health, vitamin D deficiencies have been shown to increase your risk for all major chronic diseases – including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and both metabolic and musculoskeletal disorders. (3)

Recent research has also shown that a deficiency can have a negative effect on your mental health – impacting both anxiety and depression. (4) The deficiency is also believed to exacerbate seasonal depression, which gives us a real scientific reason for the winter blues. Doctors often prescribe vitamin D supplements for seasonal depression, and some studies have shown that it is almost as effective as just getting the correct amount of sunlight exposure. However, only taking the supplement alone is not enough, as your body cannot absorb the supplemental form without the proper diet.

Vitamin D needs fat

Vitamin D is considered a “fat-soluble” vitamin. That means that it is dissolved in the presence of fats (ex. oils) and without them, it will not be absorbed into your body. Instead, it will go right out of your body when you pee. The solution is to make sure that when you take it, you also consume a healthy fat source, which has been shown to increase absorption as much as 50% when compared to taking it on its own. (5)

Winter is coming, do I need a Vitamin D supplement?

As mentioned, vitamin D supplements are a great resource during the winter months, but that does not mean that everyone should take supplements during them. The people most in need include those with darker skin, older age, and obese individuals. If you fall into one of these categories, you should strongly consider talking to your doctor about a vitamin D supplement. Even if you don’t, you should still consider taking one if you are consistently wrapping yourself up every time you go outside. 

If you are not comfortable with a supplement, then go outside at peak hours (10 AM – 3 PM) for maximum exposure, and consider eating the following foods:

*Picture from (6)

What are good fat sources to pair with my supplement?

Many people like to take the supplement first thing in the morning, as this is easy to remember. You just need to remember to pair it with the fat you want to eat. Otherwise, it can be taken at any time of the day, but you should try to keep the intake as consistent as possible.

Healthy Fat Sources

1. Avocado

Loaded in Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFAs)

2. Dairy

Dairy sources often contain a lot of fat in their natural state

3. Eggs

With the yolk intact, you can obtain great omega 3 fatty acids

Healthy oils like avocado and olive oil provide MUFAs

Nuts & seeds provide omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids

6. Seafood

Seafood is some of the best sources of omega 3s

You can have too much Vitamin D

Since Vitamin D is fat-soluble, it also means that it is stored in your fat cells when taken in excess. If you continuously do this, it can be toxic, which is why it is extremely important to talk to your doctor before taking it. Symptoms include digestive issues, nausea, and poor appetite. Extreme cases can lead to kidney and liver failure as well. Therefore, if you eat some of the high vitamin D foods above and get plenty of sun exposure, you really do not need the supplement unless directed by your doctor.

As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, it may be time for you to consider a vitamin D supplement. Now that you are an expert, you won’t waste the supplement by failing to absorb it!