Vitamin D: Dairy’s Immune Boosting Nutrient

If you watch the news or scroll through your social feeds, you’ve likely noticed how easy it is to get lost in conflicting nutrition recommendations or overwhelmed by the latest wave of popular vitamin and supplement trends. It can be difficult to know if you’re meeting your body’s needs through food, and if not, which nutrients you should take as supplements. And there is one vitamin in particular that has gotten a lot of attention during the pandemic – vitamin D. 

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for your body’s health and well-being. It is available in some foods, as well as through supplementation, in addition to being produced by the body in response to the sun’s rays on the skin. Vitamin D plays a key role in overall bone health: It helps the body absorb minerals like calcium and phosphorus, keeping bones strong and helping prevent osteoporosis.

Can Vitamin D Prevent a Virus Like COVID-19?

There has been a lot of buzz about vitamin D’s potential protection against becoming infected with, or developing serious symptoms of, COVID-19. While the research to support this isn’t conclusive, it is known that vitamin D interacts with the body’s immune cells, supporting overall immune health. As research continues to look at the potential relationship between vitamin D and COVID-19, the fact is that vitamin D is an essential nutrient our bodies need every day.

Vitamin D Recommendation and Sources

Most children and adults need between 600 and 800 international units (IUs) of vitamin D daily – with specific recommendations varying based on age. Very few foods naturally contain vitamin D, so many people turn to supplements to get the vitamin D they may be lacking. Supplements can be expensive and many authoritative health organizations, such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, recommend that we aim to meet our nutrients needs through food first. 

Good news: milk offers a unique and powerful combination of essential nutrients – like vitamin D, in addition to vitamin A, calcium and protein – that are important for a healthy immune system. Regardless of whether you choose whole, reduced-fat, low-fat, skim, lactose-free or chocolate milk, dairy is a vitamin D dynamo. In fact, one glass of milk provides 15% of the daily value of vitamin D. And by working to meet the recommended three servings of dairy per day, you’ll get nearly half of your daily dose. 

The Bottom Line

When it comes to boosting your immune system, you can’t go wrong with dairy as part of a well-balanced diet. Not only is it nutritious, it’s also an inexpensive source of vitamin D – costing less than 25 cents per 8-ounce serving! 

Learn more about the health benefits of dairy.

By Tanya Dillon, MPH, RDN, LD

In addition to being an Army veteran and a registered and licensed dietitian, Tanya holds a Bachelor of Arts in psychology and a Master of Public Health in community health education. She jumped into her nutrition career with Aramark and UPMC (University of Pittsburgh Medical Center), in positions including clinical dietitian and administrative director for UPMC’s Diabetes Center of Excellence.

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