Increase your Intake of Vitamin D

Getting a D may not have helped you in school, but getting D in your diet will help you live longer. And chances are you need more: A whopping 60-80 percent of Americans doesn’t get enough vitamin D. Actually, make that vitamin D3, which is produced in skin when sunlight hits it and converts inactive vitamin D to D3. But unless you're a life-guard, construction worker or marathoner, you probably spend most of the day inside, limiting how much D3 your body makes. It's worse if you're dark-skinned: African-American adults over 70 run the biggest risk of becoming D deficient. Dark skin needs to soak up about six times as much sunlight as pale skin to produce the same amount of vitamin D3.

Why is D3 important for keeping you biologically younger? You probably know that vitamin D3 is calcium's bone-building sidekick, but it's also an immune system ally. Researchers have found that women with higher levels of vitamin D3 have longer telomeres than those with low levels of D3.
Telomeres are tiny substances found at the ends of your cells' chromosomes; they protect your DNA in much the same way that the plastic tips on the ends of shoelaces keep laces from fraying. But each time a cell divides, its telomeres get shorter until eventually the cell stops dividing and self-destructs. Basically, longer telomeres mean longer life for a cell. So more vitamin D3 may mean less aging of your immune-system cells.
Vitamin D3 is also vital for your cellular spell checkers. Inside every cell, a spell checker works to prevent errors that happen when you duplicate (make new) cells. Errors in duplication can turn cells cancerous. So it is as important for D3 to turn on your cells' spell checkers as it is for this newspaper to turn on its computers' spell checkers . Numerous studies have associated high vitamin D intake with a lowered risk of many cancers, including breast, colon, prostate, lymphoma and ovarian. Lack of D3 also has been shown recently to accelerate aging of your memory processes.
It's not just us old guys and those with dark skin who need more D3. Fully 40 percent of light-skinned pregnant women are deficient in the vitamin. The Canadian Pediatric Society is proposing that soon-to-be moms and new nursing mothers get 2,000 International Units (IU) a day to help reduce both skeletal problems and type 1 diabetes in kids.

Got the point? Get D3
How much is enough? If you're under age 60, shoot for 800 IU a day. If you're over 60, get 1,000 IU daily. If you're pregnant or nursing, get 2,000 IU. Here's our advice for hitting these marks:
1. Walk it up. Sunlight isn't only good for growing plants and frying ants (just kidding); it's one of your best sources of D3. In spring and summer, a 10-20 minute daily walk provides an adequate dose. Always put on sunscreen just before you leave the house. Since it takes 15-30 minutes for chemical sunscreens to kick in-yes, they inhibit the sun's ability to convert D to D3- you'll have gotten your dose by the time they start working. During fall and winter, do items 2 and 3 below, or move to Cancun and keep walking.

2. Dish it up. Unfortunately, D3 isn't like its alphabetic predecessor, vitamin C, which is abundant in lots of foods. Not that many foods are naturally rich in D3 unless you're a seafood lover. Salmon, mackerel and sardines are all great sources. So is cod liver oil, though if your mom ever made you take it, you probably haven't forgiven her. But she was right, and lemon flavoring makes its rich supply of D3 (and omega- 3s and DHA too) palatable. Many packaged foods are fortified with D but make sure it's D3, not D2 or nondescript D. Eggs are also an easy boost, but not egg whites- D3 is in the yolks.
3. Swallow it whole; Vitamin D3 supplements are inexpensive, reliable and available. Many calcium supplements come paired with vitamin D (again, check that it's D3). Just stay under 2,000 IU a day, and you're set.
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