Getting vitamin D in your diet


Theresa Howard - Extension News



Grilling is one of many people’s favorite parts of summer, but it doesn’t always have to involve hamburgers, hot dogs and barbecue. There are plenty of creative ways to grill that can be healthier for you too.

We all know, to be healthier, we should choose healthier foods. When grilling, you can think beyond the staples by preparing more nutrient-dense foods on the grill. You can successfully grill a variety of fruits. Peaches and pineapples both work exceptionally well on the grill as they can be used with meat as a main dish or with some cinnamon and low-fat whipped topping as a dessert.

Numerous vegetables can be grilled including zucchini, squash, eggplant, tomatoes, onions and peppers. Some of these you can place right on the grill, but for others, you might want to purchase a grilling basket. These are relatively inexpensive and usually available at any large grocery or hardware store.

While grilling fruits and veggies may sound simple enough, remember that you can make any food healthy or unhealthy by the way you prepare it. Good examples of this are fried chicken compared to baked chicken and a raw apple versus an apple pie.

Hamburgers, chicken and steak are great grilling options, but so are fish and pork chops. If you’re worried about your family turning up their noses at fish that is not breaded, try grilling fish they may be already used to, like catfish or cod. They may end up liking it more than the fried version.

Many of you are interested in getting the most from your food dollars, and you can grill on budget. Look for potential grilling items on sale at the grocery store. When you find a good deal, buy multiples. Chicken and less expensive cuts of beef that can be used over several meals in salads, fajitas and stir fry dishes are great grilling options. When you fire up the grill, you can use the surplus to prepare all your meals for the week at once and save yourself time during the workweek.

Vitamin D has gotten a lot of media coverage lately as various studies have tied normal levels of vitamin D to certain health benefits and lack of the vitamin to certain diseases. While many of these current studies provide conflicting messages, it is generally understood that vitamin D is needed for optimal health. It helps us absorb calcium and phosphorus, so we can have strong bones and teeth. The vitamin also regulates the amount of calcium in our blood, helps strengthen our immune system and helps regulate cell growth. It also decreases the risk of falls in older adults by as much as 20 percent. A lack of vitamin D can cause your bones to soften and increases your risk of bone fractures.

Our exposed skin produces vitamin D from sun exposure. Our bodies do not need a lot of sun exposure to help us reach our recommended daily amount. About 15 minutes in the sun three times a week is enough.

Individuals who have certain skin diseases may not be able to get adequate amounts of vitamin D, as they need to limit their skin’s exposure to the sun. People with dark skin, older adults and overweight individuals may not be able to produce adequate amounts of vitamin D with sun exposure alone. Winter sunlight is also not strong enough for any of us to get adequate amounts of vitamin D. We can get our daily-recommended amount of vitamin D by adding foods to our diets that naturally contain vitamin D or are fortified with the vitamin.

Fatty fish such as salmon, cod and tuna naturally contain high levels of vitamin D.

The vitamin is also found in egg yolks in smaller quantities. Foods fortified with vitamin D include most milk, some orange juices, yogurt, cheese, cereal, bread and soy drinks.

A reference to vitamin D is usually only found on food labels of fortified foods.

Vitamin D supplements are also available for those deficient in the vitamin. Check with your doctor before adding any kind of supplement to your diet.

Theresa Howard is the Harlan County extension agent for family and consumer sciences. Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension serve all people regardless of race, color, age, sex, religion, disability or national origin.

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Theresa Howard

Extension News

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