There’s a vitamin that regulates over 2,000 genes in your body and having a deficiency in it has been linked to almost every condition under the sun (pun intended). Unfortunately, it’s also one of the vitamins the majority of the population of the U.S. is deficient in.
This vitamin is vitamin D, and it can have a huge impact on your health, for better or for worse.
Crucial Benefits of Vitamin D
Although vitamin D (also nicknamed the “sunshine vitamin”) is technically a vitamin, it functions more like a hormone. Our primary source of it is sunlight, where our bodies synthesize it through our skin. Research has shown it does everything from regulating our immune system to keeping our bones healthy, boosting our mood … and even regulating our metabolism, gains, and fat loss!
If you’ve been feeling slightly under the weather, dealing with daily fatigue for no apparent reason, dealing with recurrent infections, or if your mood is consistently low, you may want to listen up. A vitamin D deficiency is extremely common, as it isn’t found in many foods, and most of us don’t get outside enough to absorb enough.
Let’s go over the benefits of this crucial vitamin, as well as how to get enough.
1. Boosts Testosterone
As most of us know, adequate testosterone plays a huge role in muscle growth, fat loss, and even mood in both men and women. Not getting enough can severely limit how much progress you make toward your fitness goals, and can also tank your sex drive and mindset.
Interestingly, just getting enough vitamin D can help significantly boost your test. Scientists have found that people who spend more time in the sun and get more vitamin D also have higher testosterone levels. [*]
In one study, 65 men were split into 2 groups, with half of them taking 3,300 IU of vitamin D every day. The supplement group’s vitamin D levels doubled and their testosterone levels increased by around 20%. [*]
Know that test levels also typically decrease naturally with age, so doing what you can to optimize them now can possibly prevent further drastic decreases in the future. After all, who doesn’t want to retain their muscle mass and vitality well into what we consider “old” age today?
2. Can Help You Shred Fat
If you’re attempting to shred fat but can’t move past a plateau, vitamin D may help.
Studies show people who take vitamin D lose more weight than those who take a placebo. [*] The theory behind why vitamin D works to help regulate weight is that it both helps suppress appetite and inhibit the formation of fat cells in our body. Some studies also mention that vitamin D helps decrease parathyroid hormone output, which can cause us to store excess fat.
A University of Minnesota study found that since the body uses vitamin D as an environmental sensor, low levels of vitamin D tells the body to store extra energy for times of limited resources. [*]
The body primarily stores this excess energy as fat. For many individuals, this excess fat accumulates around the waistline for easy access to the bloodstream through the digestive system.
Getting enough vitamin D can keep your hormone levels in check and may help enhance weight loss and decrease body fat. In turn, losing weight can increase vitamin D levels and help you maximize its other benefits, such as maintaining strong bones and protecting against illness
3. Boosts Mood
It seems the reason summer vacations boost our mood might be more than just the fact that we’ve escaped work. Vitamin D plays a significant role in regulating your mood and emotions. Several studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin D helps with symptoms of depression, while others have linked vitamin D deficiency with anxiety. [*] [*]
This link between vitamin D and mood is likely due to the fact that your brain has specific receptors for vitamin D, and your nervous system also contains enzymes that help convert vitamin D into a usable form. Since your brain and nervous system are the base for your moods at any given time, having adequate vitamin D can assist it in functioning properly so that your mood stays stable and you feel good.
Vitamin D plays an important role in nervous health and depression. Vitamin D deficiency and anxiety affect diabetic status. The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of vitamin D supplementation on anxiety, depression, and inflammation in diabetic women with anxiety.
4. Boosts Immunity
If you’re feeling under the weather, or experiencing constant fatigue, infections, and/or colds or flu, you should definitely check to see how your vitamin D levels are faring.
It turns out vitamin D has unknowingly been used for centuries to help treat serious infections like tuberculosis by boosting immunity. Patients were sent to facilities to receive direct sunlight exposure and were also given cod liver oil (a great source of vitamin D). Nowadays, research has shown that lower vitamin D levels are associated with more infections of all types of diseases and viruses, including the flu and HIV. One study showed supplementing with vitamin D decreased the rate of flu infection by 42 percent in patients. [*]
Not only does vitamin D interact with your immune system to give it a boost, but it also increases compounds that have an antimicrobial effect in your body, providing more opportunities for your body to kill whatever invading bug is in your system.
5. Keeps Your Bones Healthy
All jokes aside, vitamin D is absolutely essential when it comes to bone health. We typically (especially being young) only think of our muscles when we think of “staying strong,” but having strong bones is equal to, or perhaps even more important than, being as ripped as possible. After all, our skeletal system is our foundation, and if it breaks, our muscles won’t be able to fully support us.
Vitamin D must be present for us to absorb calcium and other minerals efficiently. If we cannot absorb calcium, which our bones are constructed out of, we will put our bones at risk of deterioration. This can cause bone weakness and loss, especially as we get older.
Children who lack Vitamin D develop the condition called rickets, which causes bone weakness, bowed legs, and other skeletal deformities, such as stooped posture.
Studies suggest that older people who take Vitamin D seem to fall less often, probably due to better muscle function.
Vitamin D is very important in many aspects of our health. Children and adults alike should eat Vitamin D-rich foods, such as milk and fish, and take Vitamin D supplements to enjoy good bone health!
How to Get Adequate Vitamin D
The absolute best way to get vitamin D is to get outside and get some sun. However, there are a few things you should know when it comes to optimizing your absorption, as well as other methods you can use to get a great daily dose.
• Grab some sun. Try getting around 15 minutes of direct sunlight exposure (not through a window) daily. If you live up north, you may need more, say from 20-30 minutes a day.
• Eat more healthy fats. Vitamin D is synthesized through sunlight from the cholesterol in our skin. Eating plenty of healthy fats ensures you have enough cholesterol to fully take in those nourishing rays. Add more avocado, nuts, seeds, olive and coconut oils, and fatty fish to your diet.
• Eat more sardines and wild fatty fish, like salmon.
• Eat more mushrooms.
• Take a supplement or take cod liver oil. Try getting a minimum of 1,000 IU in supplement form.
As you can see, maintaining adequate D levels is crucial not only for performance but for essential maintenance of a healthy life. Have you experienced any changes from making sure you get enough sun or supplementing with vitamin D? I’d love to hear your story!