Why You Need Vitamin D in Your Diet

Learn about the benefits of vitamin D for athletic performance and overall health and how to get enough of it in your diet.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin," is an essential nutrient for healthy bodily function. Found in few food sources, it is fairly common to be deficient. But fear not. There are many ways to get an adequate amount of Vitamin D. (See Why Athletes Need Vitamin D.)

Vitamin D is necessary for calcium absorption, so many dairy products—including milk, yogurt, and margarine—are vitamin D-fortified. To build strong bones and reduce the risk of osteoporosis, getting your necessary amounts of vitamin D is vital. (Like O.J.? Drink Orange Juice to Strengthen Your Immune System.)

Vitamin D also improves muscle function, according to a 2013 study showing how maintaining proper amounts is even more beneficial to athletes.

Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include muscle weakness, fatigue, seasonal affective disorder and body aches. Those most commonly susceptible to deficiency are breastfed babies, individuals with darker skin, people who get little sun  exposure and people following a vegan diet.

The body produces vitamin D through exposure to the sun. Besides dairy products, it can be found in some cereals and orange juices. Also, seafood (such as salmon, tuna, and sardines) has high amounts of vitamin D. (See Benefits of Vitamin D3 Supplements.)

Getting enough vitamin D can be done through sunlight exposure and eating foods that contain vitamin D. In some cases supplements can be used to reach your daily recommended allowance.

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