When Tom Cruise discovers Morgan Freeman and his band of underground-dwelling freedom fighters in "Oblivion," they seem to think their most serious problem is forced isolation. But we're betting lack of vitamin D-3 posed just as great a threat to their health as anything above ground.
Turns out vitamin D-3 is part vitamin, part hormone and completely essential to protect you from heart disease, cancer, type-2 diabetes, immune problems and high blood pressure. Our bodies need sunshine to kick-start its production, or you can get a leg up from supplements.
Getting enough cuts a woman's risk of developing fibroids by 32 percent, protects against pneumonia, helps preemies build bones and postmenopausal women avoid osteoporosis.
Around 60 percent to 80 percent of North Americans have low levels of vitamin D-3 - and half of those are so low they're at immediate risk for heart problems. So what should YOU do to get enough vitamin D-3?
1. Bask in 10 minutes of sunshine (no sunscreen) daily. Added bonus: Sunlight releases nitric acid into your bloodstream, keeping arteries supple. Then apply SPF 30 sunscreen (we like zinc oxide). In 10 minutes, it starts protecting you.
2. Enjoy salmon, mushrooms (really!) and D-3-fortified tofu or nonfat dairy.
3. Take a vitamin D-3 supplement (1,000 IU) daily. Tip: Have your vitamin D blood level checked every year. A study of more than 1 million people found that the optimal blood level for heart health is 20 to 36 ng/mL. For cancer prevention, the level is 50 to 80ng/mL.