Brain Health Essentials

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin; an increasing number of studies have revealed the importance of vitamin D in numerous body systems including our brain

January 22, 2013

Vitamin D is undoubtedly an essential vitamin; an increasing number of studies have revealed the importance of vitamin D in numerous body systems. The latest research demonstrates the need for this essential vitamin in obtaining optimal brain health… but it cannot act alone. Study results point to both vitamins D and E in helping to keep our minds sharper, aid in warding off dementia, and even offering protection against Parkinson's disease.

In one trial, British researchers tied low levels of vitamin D to higher odds of developing dementia, while a Dutch study found that people with diets rich in vitamin E had a lower risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer's disease. Finally, a study released by Finnish researchers linked high blood levels of vitamin D to a lower risk of Parkinson's disease.

So how do we make sure to include both vitamin D and E rich foods in our diets? There are a variety of great sources of vitamin E in foods including cottonseed, safflower and other vegetable oils, nuts, especially almonds and hazelnuts, wheat germ, and sunflower seeds. Green leafy vegetables like Swiss chard, spinach and kale provide vitamin E as well. Other great sources include papaya, olives, and avocados. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 15 mg for most adults.

Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble vitamins that can be obtained through exposure to sunlight (ultraviolet B), by consuming certain foods, and supplements. In the summer months, most people meet their vitamin D needs through planned sun exposure, like laying out at the beach or unintentional sun exposure - like gardening, or exercising outdoors in a tee shirt. 

Few foods are natural sources of vitamin D. Salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel and fish liver oils are the best sources, and vitamin D can be found in small amounts in beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and some mushrooms. Other foods have been fortified with vitamin D, thus do not naturally contain the vitamin, and include milk, some brands of orange juice, margarine, and yogurt. Breakfast cereals often contain around 10 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin D as well. The Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming a minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D daily.

Supermarket Guru suggests you make sure to include these foods on your shopping list, and there are plenty to choose from - so no excuses! Consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and practicing safe sun exposure ensures you not only obtain vitamin D and E but other essential vitamins and minerals as well.

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