There’s been a lot of buzz lately around potential benefits of vitamin D in the fight against COVID-19, but here at Holiday, we’ve been pretty smitten with vitamin D all along. Preliminary research on COVID-19 and vitamin D is promising, though there’s not quite enough evidence for scientists to recommend it to treat or prevent COVID-19 yet. In the meantime, it still offers fantastic benefits for our seniors, so we’re going to keep serving lots of delicious dishes that are also good sources of vitamin D.
“It’s not just Covid that makes vitamin D cool,” said Culinary Director at Holiday Retirement Sean Danahy, RD, LDN. “Most people know that vitamin D is associated with bone health, development, and aging, but fewer are familiar with its impact on mood regulation and the immune response.”
Studies have shown that people deficient in vitamins, such as D, are at a higher risk of developing infections and experiencing more severe symptoms associated with colds, flus, and a variety of other complications like muscle pain and weakness. Inadequate amounts of vitamin D may also contribute to poorer cognitive functioning, sleep quality, and mood, especially during winter months when seasonal affective depression (SAD) is prevalent.
While we eagerly await more news about vitamin D’s role in COVID-19, our culinary team already offers lots of healthy choices that are good sources of the vitamin because of its benefits in these areas:
Vitamin D helps your body absorb minerals like phosphorus and calcium, which support good bone health. “We know that bone health is a major issue in aging,” said Danahy. “We have osteoporosis, and we have so many different issues related to frailty and bone density. So, for seniors, getting that vitamin D that increases how much calcium and phosphorus we absorb is so important.”
Some research suggests a possible link between vitamin D and cancer prevention. For instance, one study of 33,736 people ages 40 to 69 found those with high vitamin D levels had a 20% lower risk of cancer than counterparts with low levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D may help boost your brain power. Some research suggests even moderately low vitamin D is tied to poorer performance in several areas of cognitive functioning.
Older adults deficient in vitamin D may be at significantly greater risk of developing depression according to some research. These effects manifest most often during the colder months when we tend to produce less vitamin D. “There’s a connection with seasonal affective disorder and lack of sunlight and lack of vitamin D,” says Danahy. “In the really cold winter months, we’re covering up, we’re reducing sun exposure inside. Even basking by a window is good for your emotions.”
Not getting enough vitamin D can affect your Z’s. Vitamin D deficiencies can lead to poor sleep quality according to some studies. “A fun fact is that vitamin D and melatonin are inversely related,” said Danahy “So, it’s generally recommended that [vitamin D] supplements be taken in the morning to allow for sunlight stimulus throughout the day, and that a deficiency of vitamin D can cause reduced quality and duration of sleep patterns.”
Though many recent study reviews are geared towards COVID-19 as a major public health focus, the study of vitamin D and other essential vitamins and nutrients’ role in the immune system and treatment of conditions is nothing new. Research shows that vitamin D deficiencies can make people more susceptible to acute respiratory infections like the cold and the flu.
“When dietary sources appear insufficient, there is reason to consider incorporating a supplemental source to ensure adequate supply of essential nutrients,” said Danahy. “Many healthcare professionals and organizations recommend that people take a daily supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D throughout the year if you’re not often outdoors.”
Like in most matters, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing, so always check with your physician before taking a vitamin D supplement or making any dietary changes.
The COVID-19 Link
Research suggests the connection between vitamin D and COVID-19 is similar to that between vitamin D and other infections like the cold or flu. That is people deficient in vitamin D could be at increased risk for getting the illness and prone to more adverse symptoms and delayed healing.
In a study of 200 patients hospitalized with COVID-19, more than 80% presented with low vitamin D levels. In another sampling of 235 patients whose blood samples were followed throughout their treatment, those with adequate vitamin D levels were found to be less likely to become unconscious or die due to COVID-19 complications. As noted by the editors of the medical journals that published the study, the sample sizes are too small to be considered significant, and the results call for further study before any cause-and-effect conclusions can be made.
It’s Easy to Get Your Vitamin D at Holiday
Nutritious and delicious meals are our culinary teams’ love language at Holiday communities. Our chefs are truly invested in the health and happiness of our residents and put a lot of effort toward gaining resident input through chef roundtables with residents and casual conversations in the dining rooms. We know it doesn’t matter if food is nutritious if no one eats it, so we go above and beyond to make meals both scrumptious and healthy.
Holiday Retirement’s culinary program is unique to senior living in that among our dining leadership team we have Danahy who is trained as both a chef and dietitian, sometimes termed a culinary nutrition specialist. Having the same person ensure meals are meeting nutrition standards as well as write the recipes means we never have the tug-of-war between nutrition concept and culinary appreciation that can happen when there are two different people in these roles.
Danahy aims to give residents the variety and healthy options they need to self-manage their diet and make smart choices that follow recommendations by their physicians. Some foods readily available on our menus that feature good sources of vitamin D include fatty meats such as beef, fish, salmon, and tuna as well as eggs and fortified cereal and milk.
“When I’m putting together these menus where there's lots of options, lots of good sources for these nutrients, and as a dietician who is writing a menu also as a chef, I’m building each week and each day a little bit like a puzzle where it’s going to have certain nutrient groups that meet the USDA’s dietary standards for healthy Americans and of course putting in things that our residents like.”
Enjoy a Healthy, Happy Lifestyle
Holiday Retirement provides all the tools you need to live a healthy life. Chef-prepared meals are carefully planned to be delicious and well-balanced. Daily activities keep your brain sharp and encourage connections with others, and fitness classes and features like walking trails get you moving while having fun. Make a change for the better. Reach out today to schedule a tour.
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