Making sure your body has the vitamin D it needs is easier during the warm, summer months—you can just spend time outside! But now that colder winter weather is here, getting the vitamin D your body needs is a bigger challenge. Not only do the cold temperatures cause us to want to stay inside, but shorter days mean there’s already less sun to go around in the first place. Plus, for most parts of the United States, winter sun rays are more indirect than summer sun rays—meaning your body already isn’t absorbing as many UVB rays as during the summer months.
But why is vitamin D so important? Let’s investigate.
There’s a reason the “winter blues” are common for so many people. Low levels of vitamin D has been linked to seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that is exacerbated by the change in seasons.
But it isn’t just your mental health that suffers when you don’t get enough vitamin D. A vitamin D deficiency can cause muscle and bone loss, while also increasing your risk for some cancers. Not getting enough vitamin D may even put you at a greater risk for Type 2 diabetes, regardless of other common risk factors, such as weight.
Luckily, your doctor can check your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test, so you don’t have to waste time wondering if you’re getting enough. And here’s even better news: There are plenty of healthy ways to get more vitamin D—even in the winter months.
Though the majority of your body’s vitamin D typically comes from sun exposure, some foods are rich in vitamin D and can help increase your levels during the winter months. Seafood is an especially good source of vitamin D, especially fatty fish like salmon and tuna. Even canned versions of these popular fish can help you get the bulk of your daily value of vitamin D, so try incorporating fish into a few meals per week. Pork, mushrooms, eggs and other vitamin D-fortified dairy products are also great sources.
If you do have a vitamin D deficiency, your doctor may recommend you take a daily supplement. Recommendations on daily intake can vary, though, so make sure you talk to your doctor first.
Even just 15 minutes of sunlight on your bare skin can make a significant difference, so take advantage of sunny or warm days when they come around. For instance, you can take a short walk on your lunch break or plan a ski trip. You’ll still need to bundle up to stay warm, of course, but even some sunlight on your face can help boost your vitamin D levels.
If you’ve been looking for a reason to visit a tropical location this winter, here’s your official permission. Deliberately traveling somewhere warmer and sunnier during the winter months can help increase your vitamin D intake and combat those winter blues. Just remember to protect your skin from sunburn as you’re soaking up those UVB rays.
While getting enough vitamin D in the winter may be a bit more challenging than in warmer months, there are things you can do to reduce your risk of a deficiency. If you’re concerned about your vitamin D levels, consider making an appointment with your doctor to get checked today.