The FDA reported that more than 60 percent of all Americans don’t get enough vitamin D on a daily basis. It’s different from other essential vitamins because our bodies can manufacture it with sun exposure. While the sun gives us our biggest dose, it comes with the risk of skin cancer. We are now aware that sun exposure leads to skin cancer and the regular use of sunscreen is recommended.

That’s why it’s really important to get vitamin D from food sources as well. Vitamin D’s main function is to regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus in our bones and aid in cell to cell communication throughout the body. Getting your daily dose of vitamin D helps stave off osteoporosis but it also prevents arthritis, depression, cancer, and diabetes mellitus.

But it’s job doesn’t stop there, Vitamin D also regulates blood pressure, reduces stress and tension, relieves body aches and pains by reducing muscle spasms, reduces respiratory infections, helps in differentiation of the cells, aids in insulin secretion, improves overall skin health, and improves cardiovascular strength by providing a protective lining for the blood vessels.

It’s also an immune system regulator and has been used as an alternative to flu shots in reducing the risk of contracting influenza. It also reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis, helps our brains maintain cognitive function, helps us maintain a healthy weight, reduces asthmas symptoms and severity, reduces heart attack risk and even helps protect us from low level radiation.

Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common in northern latitudes and is considered an epidemic in the United States. Many cases of deficiency are in regions where people don’t get a lot of sunlight on their skin due to being indoors a lot, covering up their skin with clothes or dedicated sunblock wearers. Older people are also likely to have a deficiency because their skin is thinner and produces less vitamin D with sun exposure. Many states like Alaska routinely test for deficiencies during annual exams because it’s so common and provide a series of injections or supplements.

Before you reach for a supplement, have your doctor test your blood for a deficiency since too much vitamin D can lead to other health issues. As always, the best way to get a daily dose of vitamin D is through foods. Some foods high in vitamin D include salmon, tuna, sole, flounder, halibut, herring, sardines and oysters. If you are not a seafood fan you can still get your vitamin D from pork, fortified cereals, oatmeal, fortified milk and orange juice, eggs, and mushrooms.