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'D'-FENSE: Key Nutrient Helps You Fight Off Disease

A little “D” — as in vitamin D —can be an important weapon in your body’s disease-fighting arsenal. But be smart about how you get it.

Besides helping calcium strengthen your bones, vitamin D may help prevent certain cancers, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis, says Jo Ann Carson, Ph.D., Professor of Clinical Nutrition and a registered dietitian.

Low levels of vitamin D might also affect a host of other medical problems, including high blood pressure and heart disease.

The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, but that comes with the risk of overexposure to harmful rays (see page 4). To get your vitamin D from food, include milk and other fortified dairy products, as well as fatty fish regularly, Dr. Carson says.

Nutrition Tip

If you take supplements, choose one that includes 500 to 1,000 International Units (IU) of D3, a form which results in the most active vitamin D in the body. Don’t exceed 2,000 IU per day without physician guidance.

Low vitamin D could be making you blue

Feeling down in the dumps? Low levels of vitamin D also have been linked to depression, according to a study by UT Southwestern psychiatrists and the Cooper Institute in Dallas.

Patients with higher levels of vitamin D were less depressed than those with low levels, says Sherwood Brown, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Psychiatry at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study, which was published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

“Our findings suggest that screening for vitamin D levels in depressed patients — and perhaps screening for depression in people with low vitamin D levels — might be useful,” Dr. Brown says. Vitamin D levels can be tested during a routine physical exam.

The study didn’t address whether increasing vitamin D intake reduced signs of depression.

“We don’t have enough information yet to recommend supplements,” Dr. Brown says.

Surf, sun, and veggies

Round out your summer fun with these healthy foods

Bathing suit? Check. Sunscreen? Check. Good book? Check. Summer veggies? You bet. Don’t forget to include them

in your summer plans.

Pack your plate with peak seasonal produce this summer, even if some varieties may be lacking in important nutrients.

“Common summer vegetables like zucchini, summer squash, and cucumbers don’t contain a lot of the major nutrients like vitamins A and C,” says Lona Sandon, Assistant Professor of Clinical Nutrition and a registered dietitian, “but they’re still nutritionally important.”

These vegetables are good sources of other nutrients, she says, including zinc, potassium, and folic acid. They’re also high in water and fiber, and low in fat. “That makes them good for helping you lose weight because they’re filling you up without adding a lot of calories,” Ms. Sandon says.

Learn more about UT Southwestern’s nutrition services at utsouthwestern.org/nutrition.