A Canadian winter usually means wrapping up in countless layers and trying to get to your destination as quickly as possible. Sometimes even short trips to the local store can feel like hard work.
When the warmer temperatures come around most people are encouraged to spend some time outside because of the many health benefits from the sun.
We know sunshine helps you recover from illnesses, offsets fatigue, improves your mood and is a very important source of Vitamin D.
But did you know, every cell in the body has a receptor for the sunshine vitamin (vitamin D) and according to Statistics Canada roughly a third of Canadians are vitamin D deficient?
With millions of us affected in this country it could be argued that this is an issue that should not be overlooked.
And, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health say this, in fact, is a global problem because it affects those living north of the latitudinal lines connecting San Francisco to Philadelphia and Athens to Beijing.
Importance of Vit D
Even when we are able to venture outside into the sun it is not always possible to get the benefits because we are often wearing sunscreen and that blocks vitamin D production. Yet, because of all the associated health risks, sunscreen is both necessary and unavoidable these days.
Vitamin D is vital because it helps the body absorb calcium which is critical for bone health and strength.
The easiest options for calcium are dairy products and some vegetables (including spinach, kale soybeans and collards). As children there were constant reminders to “drink your milk” because of the known benefits of building strong bones and teeth. Cow’s milk is still a great way to get calcium, at any age, but there is growing evidence that as we get older the consumption of milk falls sharply. Despite a series of studies into this trend, so far, researchers have been unable to pinpoint the causal factors behind the decline in dairy consumption for those aged 50 and older.
The perfect pair
We do know, many people have a diet that provides them with enough calcium but they are not getting all the necessary health benefits. That’s because of insufficient vitamin D. Both are required to help bone development. For that to occur, we need to see them as inseparable twins that are only effective if both are in the diet.
Away from the sun, you can get vitamin D from certain foods including some fish (salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and shrimp), egg yolks, beef liver and mushrooms. But food by itself is usually not enough, according to Heart to Home Meals Consultant Dietitian, Andrea Olynyk, “I recommend all seniors take a daily vitamin D3 supplement containing 800iu. This is necessary because seniors are more likely to suffer from deficiency of this nutrient than the rest of the population.”
As people age their calorie intake decreases. This is due to a number of factors including having a poorer appetite or having less interest in eating while recovering from an illness. And, as we age the body struggles to absorb calcium especially if vitamin D levels are low. Also, the skin does not produce as much vitamin D when the body is exposed to the sun as you get older. Add to that, kidneys are not as efficient in retaining calcium in the body as you age. Taken together, you can see how important it is to get sufficient vitamin D.
According to Andrea, “Seniors need to adapt their dietary intake as they age to manage their health and to maintain the lifestyle they desire.” Overall, this may require only minor changes to your diet, but taking a more sophisticated approach could offer many benefits.
You can learn more about Heart to Home Meals and the services we provide at www.hearttohomemeals.ca