Even though the days are growing longer, we’re all coming off months of reduced time in the sun. While snuggling in the warmth of cozy dens holds appeal, there are some drawbacks to limited solar exposure. When it's colder and darker, outdoor activity is typically limited, too. Medically speaking, it also means we might start experiencing a dip in our vitamin D levels. The reason? According to the National Institutes of Health, most people need at least some of their vitamin D minimum requirements to be self-sourced through exposure to sunlight.
It's by no means a small problem. Approximately one billion people worldwide have a vitamin D deficiency. This fat-soluble vitamin helps us absorb calcium, grow strong bones and maintain our immune system. Those who are deficient in vitamin D might find themselves at greater risk for such troubling diseases as rickets (especially in children), osteoporosis (especially among the elderly) and even autoimmune disorders. Vitamin D deficiency is even increasingly linked to seasonal affective disorder, that feeling of sadness or anxiety that expresses itself during the winter months.
So how do you keep your vitamin D levels ramped up even during winter? Here are three suggestions to help keep your body nourished.
1. Boost Your Diet: Vitamin D naturally occurs in very few foods. Fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel are likely your best source, although you can also find it in smaller amounts in egg yolks, cheese and beef liver. If the thought of beef liver or mackerel doesn’t quite do it for you, and you’ve had your quota of salmon for the week, look for fortified foods on your grocery shelves. A lot of cereals are loaded with vitamin D, and dairy products started adding vitamin D in the 1930's to fight rickets. If you’re trying to figure out how to create a menu containing the 600 IU of vitamin D an average adults needs, the USDA has compiled a comprehensive list of food sources (visit https://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/vitamin-d).
2. Go Outside: People who live farthest from the equator are at the highest risk of experiencing a vitamin D deficiency. That’s why it's so important that you make sure you expose yourself to sunshine every day, if at all possible. Even though we all know we're supposed to use sunscreen, doctors recommend that we all try to spend a few minutes outside without sunscreen so that those ultraviolet rays can soak into your skin, mix with your cholesterol and transform into vitamin D. You can keep your face covered, and just have your arms uncovered for 10-30 minutes a days. Healthline reports that midday is the best time to get some sunshine: “[A] study found that 30 minutes of midday summer sun exposure in Oslo, Norway, was equivalent to consuming 10,000-20,000 IU of vitamin D.” Be forewarned that melanin in darkly pigmented skin can act as a barrier that prevents vitamin D production. So, if you have darker skin, you might need to spend a little extra time outside. Try to schedule lunch breaks that coincide with the brightest time of day, especially during the winter months, to ensure that you're soaking up prime rays.
3. Pop a Multivitamin: Because so many people do live far away from the equator and struggle to meet their requirements with food, dietary vitamin D supplements are the best and easiest way to boost your health in this regard. Just one serving of our plant-based Life’s Abundance Multivitamin will provide you with the full recommended 600 IU of vitamin D.
Here’s to a bright and D-lightful New Year for all of us!