By now we all know the benefits of vitamin D in relation to bone health and that it is used to prevent bone fractures, osteoporosis and rickets. New studies show there may be other health advantages to getting enough vitamin D.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published a study in 2014 regarding vitamin D and cardiovascular disease. The study indicates the risk of cardiac failure was lower in people given a supplement of vitamin D than people who did not receive one.

A study published in 2014 by the American Academy of Neurology suggests those with a vitamin D deficiency had a 51 percent risk of developing dementia and those with a severe deficiency in vitamin D had a 122 percent chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

HEALTH: Vitamin D deficiencies can cause a malady of symptoms

In 2013, the Autoimmunity Reviews published a review of studies regarding the effects of vitamin D on various diseases and other health concerns. An area of focus in this review was the immune system. In one study it was concluded vitamin D deficiency impaired the development of macrophages, the white blood cells responsible for ingesting infectious materials in our systems. Therefore, it was determined vitamin D had a direct effect on our immune systems. In another study, people who took vitamin D had a decrease in respiratory infections by 23 percent and people who supplemented with vitamin D had a 50 percent decrease in the number of days they required antibiotics.

How much vitamin D do we need? The Recommended Dietary Allowances for daily vitamin D intakes are:

Our bodies are able to synthesize vitamin D through sun exposure. Studies indicate 15-20 minutes of sun exposure to bare skin two times per week would provide adequate vitamin D. We live in the Northeast, though, and this combined with our hectic lifestyles and the dangers of sun exposure and increased skin cancer risk, make it clear obtaining vitamin D through sun exposure alone would prove to be difficult.

Luckily, there are several other sources of vitamin D besides the sun. Fatty fishes such as salmon, tuna, mackerel and sardines are a good source of vitamin D. Fortified foods such as cereals, milk products and orange juice provide vitamin D. Eggs, beef liver and cod liver oil are also excellent sources of vitamin D.

Whether you choose to incorporate vitamin D by sun exposure, foods that are good sources of vitamin D or supplement use, it is an important nutrient we can use to protect ourselves from these various illnesses.

Susan Kaufman is a registered dietitian for Health Quest. She works at The Northern Dutchess Residential Health Care Facility in Rhinebeck, also known as The Thompson House.

Grilled Mackerel over Spring Green Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette

Serves 4

4 4-ounce mackerel filets

Cooking oil for coating fish

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste

Salad:

1 pound spring greens (a mix of baby spinach, kale or bok choy, arugula, mustard greens)

5 scallions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons toasted walnuts

1 navel orange, sectioned

Balsamic Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Rinse mackerel filets and pat dry with a paper towel. Coat with cooking oil, drizzle with lemon juice, add salt and pepper to taste. Preheat clean grill to high. Place mackerel on grill, skin side down, leaving grill lid open to prevent overcooking. Cook for 4 minutes, flip and cook another 4 minutes until flesh is opaque all the way to the center.

Clean, dry and toss mixed greens. Place walnuts in pan and lightly toast for 1-2 minutes, cool and add to tossed greens. Add sliced scallion and orange sections to greens.

Whisk vinegar, Dijon mustard and lemon juice together. Drizzle in extra-virgin olive oil and whisk until thoroughly combined. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Place tossed green salad on a platter and drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette. Arrange mackerel filets over salad and serve immediately.