The other day I was aimlessly scrolling through my facebook feed (I need a hobby) when I noticed an article shared by someone on Vitamin D. I’m not going to share said article here because it was from one of those quacky nutrition websites (get your info from a reliable source people!), but it did get me thinking….
As we head into the colder months with longer nights and shorter days, there are lots of things for our kids to enjoy, but plenty of outdoor playtime is not one of them. I bring this up because Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. Our sprouts (and ourselves) can make our own vitamin D if our skin is exposed to adequate sunshine throughout the day, however, school and shorter days tend to cut in on that outdoor playtime meaning your sprouts may or may not be making enough vitamin D. So should you supplement your little with vitamin D? What are the signs of deficiency? And What does vitamin D even do for us? Let’s talk about it (though maybe not in that order… 🙂
WHY DO WE NEED VITAMIN D?
Vitamin D is a team player in helping to build strong bones and teeth. This wonderful vitamin promotes the absorption of calcium and phosphorous and helps these minerals make it into your sprouts’ bones and teeth, keeping them healthy and strong. Vitamin D has several other functions in our bodies you may not have heard about. Vitamin D helps with immune function and fighting off bacteria and viruses (we could use this at our house right now… flu season anyone?). Vitamin D also helps our muscles to communicate with our nerves and brain. Sounds pretty important right?
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF A VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY?
In children, a vitamin D deficiency leads to rickets, when your littles bones become soft and weak (basically the equivalent to osteoporosis in adults). Keep in mind that unless your sprout is getting a regular DEXA scan, you probably won’t notice their bones are soft until they begin to become misshapen. Other signs of vitamin D deficiency are still being studied but may be related to those other roles of vitamin D including immune function, blood pressure, and insulin resistance. Again, not something you’re likely to notice in your kiddo. Luckily, vitamin D deficiency is pretty rare these days.
DOES MY CHILD NEED A VITAMIN D SUPPLEMENT?
If your child is breastfed or drinking less than 32 ounces of formula per day then yes, they probably do need a supplement and you should discuss this with your pediatrician. Fortunately, cow’s milk (and often soy milk) is supplemented with vitamin D so if your child is drinking the recommended 3 glasses a day, they are probably getting enough vitamin D in their diet and you don’t need to worry about a supplement. Unfortunately, juice and soft drinks are becoming increasingly more popular and replacing milk in the diet, leading to decreased vitamin D intake. Yet another reason dietitians encourage water and milk when it comes to beverages. If your child just isn’t a milk drinker, there are other dietary options for vitamin D including fortified yogurts, orange juice, cheese and cereals. Other foods like salmon, tuna, eggs and mushrooms (if grown under UV light) also contain small amounts of vitamin D (though not much). Your best bet for maintaining adequate vitamin D levels is to serve milk with meals and let them be outside anytime they have a chance. If you are concerned about vitamin D intake in your little, be sure to check with your pediatrician before you start supplementing. Too much vitamin D might be almost as bad as too little!
We are certainly enjoying our last few days of warmth and sunshine (although it was 30 degrees on our walk this morning…not that warm if you ask me) and soaking up all the vitamin D we can (figuratively speaking). Hopefully you still have a few warm sunny days in your forecast, but keep the sunshine vitamin in mind in the coming months and keep serving milk!