Vitamin D — The sunshine vitamin – Marshall Independent

The deficiency disease that is caused by a lack of vitamin D, calcium or phosphate is called rickets. Vitamin D helps the body control calcium and phosphate levels. If the blood levels of these minerals become too low, the body may produce hormones that can cause calcium and phosphate to be released from the bones, which in turn makes them weak and soft.

Vitamin D is produced by the skin when it is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D is also absorbed from food, although there are not a lot of natural food sources of vitamin D. Since the 1930s, vitamin D has been added to foods, most notably to fluid milk. Not all dairy products are fortified with vitamin D, just as some other food products, such as cereals or juice may be. It’s important to read the label to see if the food product you are consuming does contain vitamin D or not.

Our “sunny” season is approaching but relying on the sun to get the vitamin D that your body requires may not be the most effective method of getting this vitamin. For one thing, a long part of our year is not conducive to being outside in the sun; winter and blizzards call for most of our skin’s surface area to be well-covered! And in the summer when it is hot and sunny, we often slather on the sunscreen to protect our skin from the harmful rays, which also affects our production of vitamin D. We don’t hear much about the disease called rickets anymore, but more and more studies are showing the importance of having enough vitamin D to prevent complications with other diseases, especially diseases that are related to the inflammatory process.

Vitamin D and dairy products go hand-in-hand and now is a good time to focus on these nutrients with June being Dairy Month right around the corner. Milk, cheese and yogurt deliver nine essential nutrients in a variety of tasty, affordable and convenient options. Milk is a natural source of high-quality protein for healthy muscles and calcium for strong bones. Other dairy products, such as yogurt, cheese, pudding, ice milk and ice cream also provide a source of these as well.

My favorite desserts in the summer often combine the sweet fruits of summer with dairy products. Smoothies and fruit parfaits are perfect for warm summer days as a snack or light dessert. You can really modify any basic recipe to accommodate your taste preferences. Following is a basic recipe that you can start with and modify to the items you have available and like.

Raspberry-Strawberry Yogurt Smoothie

1 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt

2 cups fresh strawberries and/or raspberries

3/4 cup low-fat milk

1 cup ice (about 12 cubes)

Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Serve immediately. Makes four servings. 1 serving= 160 calories.

If you prefer to dip your fruit, here’s another favorite recipe of mine that’s quite a bit healthier (and definitely lower in calories) than the usual fruit dip that uses marshmallow creme and cream cheese.

Yogurt-Honey Fruit Dip

1/2 cup low fat, plain yogurt

1 Tbsp. honey

Cinnamon to taste

Mix all ingredients together. Cut up pieces of fresh fruit and put on skewers or toothpicks to dip into the mixture. Serves 2-4. (1/2 cup dip=130 calories)

Cheryl Rude is a registered dietitian at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center.


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