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Prairie Fare: We All Need the Sunshine Vitamin

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Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist Julie Garden-Robinson, NDSU Extension Service food and nutrition specialist
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Some people are more at risk of a vitamin D deficiency than others.

By Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist

NDSU Extension Service

I chuckled as I read a Facebook friend’s comments about her ongoing relationship with a shovel this winter. She described “him” (the shovel) as “pushy and stubborn.” One of her friends suggested that she “dump him.”

We had a blizzard in our area a couple of days before the official start of spring, so we have to keep our good humor somehow. We all want to “dump” our shovels at this time of the year as we long for the warmth of the sun and for the first green blades of grass.

Maybe some of us are a little short of the “sunshine vitamin.” Vitamin D can be formed by the action of sunlight on the skin, and it is associated with a wide range of health benefits from heart health to mental health.

However, most of us do not go outside to partake in the sunshine vitamin during the winter months unless completely enshrouded with coats, hats, scarves and gloves.

If you have heard tales of relatives enduring spoonfuls of cod liver oil long ago, vitamin D is the reason. The parents of yesteryear were trying to avoid vitamin D deficiencies among their children. A tablespoon of cod liver oil provides a full day’s recommendation of vitamin D, but not necessarily a palatable experience.

Vitamin D is needed for bone growth and constant remodeling. In conjunction with calcium and other nutrients, vitamin D helps prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with rickets, a softening and bowing of the bones, particularly of the legs.

Vitamin D has had a lot of publicity in recent years and research continues. Besides promoting a strong skeletal system, vitamin D has several other potential health benefits, according to published research, although some of the results remain controversial. For example, vitamin D may play a role in maintaining our immune, nervous and muscular systems.

Some researchers have shown an increased risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes associated with low levels of vitamin D in the blood. Other researchers have linked low vitamin D levels to a greater risk of depression.

The daily vitamin D recommendation was increased to 600 International Units (IU) per day for adults up to age 69 and 800 IU per day for those aged 70 and over. The upper limit for safely using vitamin D, called the “Tolerable Upper Intake Level,” was set at 4,000 IU per day. Visit with your health-care provider to see if you might benefit from a dietary supplement.

Vitamin D is available from certain foods, including vitamin D-fortified milk, orange juice and cereal. Vitamin D is naturally found in salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, beef liver and egg yolks. For example, 1 cup of milk has about 100 IU of vitamin D, and a 3-ounce portion of salmon has about 800 IU.

Some people are more at risk of a vitamin D deficiency than others. They include breast-fed infants, those with little sun exposure, older adults whose skin might not manufacture vitamin D efficiently, dark-skinned individuals, people with liver disease or Crohn’s disease, obese individuals or those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery.

Until we can bare our arms a few minutes a day before slathering on the sun screen, be sure to fuel yourself with vitamin D sources. This vitamin-D-rich recipe is courtesy of the Iowa State University Webster County Extension Service. Try salmon patties with a side salad or make a sandwich with whole-wheat bread, tomato, lettuce and onions.

Crispy Salmon Patties

1 (14.75-ounce) can salmon, drained

1 egg

1 slice whole-wheat bread, shredded, or 5 crushed saltine crackers

3 green onions, including the green stems, or 1/3 cup white onion, chopped fine (about 1/3 medium onion)

1 medium garlic clove, minced, or 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder

Dash black pepper

1/2 tsp. seasoning (paprika, chili powder or dill weed)

2 tsp. vegetable oil or olive oil

Remove any large bones and skin from salmon. Break into chunks with fork. Break egg into a large bowl. Whisk with fork. Add salmon, bread or crackers, onion, garlic, pepper and additional seasoning. Mix gently. Form into six patties about 1/2-inch thick. Heat oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Place patties in the hot oil in the skillet. Leave skillet uncovered. Cook three minutes. Turn over patties with a spatula. Cook the other side three to four minutes to a temperature of 145 F. Serve immediately.

Makes six patties. Each patty has 140 calories, 6 grams (g) of fat, 18 g of protein, 3 g of carbohydrate and 310 milligrams of sodium.

(Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.)


NDSU Agriculture Communication – March 21, 2013

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Editor:Rich Mattern, (701) 231-6136, richard.mattern@ndsu.edu
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