How to Get Enough Vitamin D During the Winter
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine” or “sunlight” vitamin is produced when ultraviolet rays from the sun hit your skin and activate something called vitamin D synthesis. It can also be found in some foods and is also available as a dietary supplement to take when needed.
Vitamin D has many roles in the body and helps processes such as maintaining a healthy immune system. It also helps maintaining normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, in order to help form and maintain strong bones (which is especially important for the elderly and young children).
It’s an extremely important vitamin that has powerful effects on several systems throughout your body as unlike other vitamins, it functions like a hormone – every single cell in your body has a receptor for it. However, as we approach the colder and darker months with less exposure to sunlight, we may struggle to get the right amount of vitamin D to keep our bodies healthy. So, let’s look at the benefits of vitamin D and other ways to make sure we’re getting the right amount this winter.
The benefits of vitamin D & being outside
As our body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight exposure, most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from simply being outside from around late March/early April to the end of September. We all know that taking a break from our busy lives to take a quick walk outside in the fresh air makes us feel better, in fact being outside and basking in the warm sunshine has been linked to playing an important role in regulating mood swings and reducing feelings of stress.
It’s important to remember that body is unable to make vitamin D if you’re sitting indoors by a sunny window, because the UV rays which produce the vitamin can’t get through the glass. So, it’s very important to make sure you get outside during the summer months. Set aside a time in the day to take a walk, have a picnic in the park with friends or complete that gardening project you’ve been putting off. With that said, you should also remember to make sure you’re taking precautionary measures such as wearing a high SPF sunscreen, seeking out some shade, or covering up with light loose clothing so that you don’t burn your skin when exposed to direct sunlight.
How to get vitamin D in winter
While there are many great vitamin D sources, we know that simply being outside in sunlight is the easiest (and of course the cheapest!) way of getting your fix, however during the winter months this can be a little tougher. As our seasons change, the clocks go back, we have less daylight hours. Make sure you put aside the time within your daily routine to leave the house and catch some sunlight when you can.
In the UK, sunlight doesn’t contain enough UV radiation in winter, so from around October to early March our bodies don’t produce vitamin D. That means during this time the main source usually comes from vitamin D rich foods or a vitamin D supplement in order to help improve our immune system and ensure we don’t go through the winter with a vitamin D deficiency. Some effects of not producing vitamin D on the body, can be anything from fatigue and tiredness, getting sick more often, hair loss and bone & back pain.
It’s suggested by The Department of Health, that there are certain groups of people who are at greater risk of not getting enough vitamin D and therefore should highly consider introducing a supplement into their diets. These groups are babies who are breastfed, young children from around age 1-4, and people who aren’t often exposed to the sun (for example people who are frail or housebound). For anyone over the age of 5, it’s not essential, but you can consider taking a supplement during the winter months. There are a great number of supplements to choose from on Amazon which can help fix a potential vitamin D deficiency in a quick and easy way.
Vitamin D rich foods
While supplements are great, it’s also important to eat a great amount of vitamin D rich foods during winter months. Vitamin D can be found in some dairy products such as eggs, as well as fruits and vegetables like mushrooms. However, some of the bigger food groups to consider are:
- Oily fish foods & fish liver oils: such as salmon, sardines, herring, tinned tuna, and mackerel. If you don’t like fish, an alternative can be to take cod liver oil supplements which are a great source of vitamin D.
- Fortified foods: cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, breakfast cereal and some fat spreads.
- Red meat: beef, lamb, pork, veal, venison.