Here’s a refresher from your school days: Without the sun, the Earth would go dark and all life would cease to exist. The sun provides the energy necessary for photosynthesis, making it an integral part of the planet’s ecosystem.
The sun also provides the energy to convert cholesterol in the skin to vitamin D. This is particularly important as there are not many foods that are rich sources of vitamin D.
A few minutes of sun exposure at midday a few times a week is enough for your body to produce sufficient vitamin D.
But what happens when the sun disappears for long stretches? People who live in perpetually overcast places are often found to be deficient in vitamin D.
While many of us who live in California (and particularly in the North Bay) don’t have to worry too often about experiencing long periods of time without the sun, you may have loved ones who often go “sunless.”
If you travel to an area that doesn’t get much sun during the winter, you may not be prepared on how to combat the lack of vitamin D. Below we share our tips for getting enough vitamin D.
Why Is Vitamin D Important?
Vitamin D offers a whole host of benefits for the human body. Sufficient levels of vitamin D have been shown to help prevent many diseases including:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Type-2 diabetes
There is even some evidence that maintaining sufficient levels will help slow down the aging process. Just remember, spending too much time in the sun can also speed up the aging process, at least in your skin.
Vitamin D production is fast. Less than 15 minutes of exposure to strong sunlight three times a week is enough to produce sufficient vitamin D.
Sources of Vitamin D (Not the Sun)
In some places around the world, getting even 45 minutes of direct sun exposure a week can be a challenge.
From November to March, people who live anywhere north of 37 degrees latitude (roughly the northern 2/3 of the U.S.) are at risk of being deficient in vitamin D. The same is true for those living below 37 degrees south of the equator, except during the opposite months.
The sun is low in the sky and its rays are too weak to provide the energy necessary for vitamin D production. Plus, it tends to be colder and people are wearing more clothing, further decreasing the amount of sun exposure they get.
On top of that, many people spend a large chunk of their time indoors and when they do go outside it’s super overcast — or already dark when the days are short.
It’s also worth noting that sitting next to a window while you work will do you little good. The UVB rays of the sun necessary for vitamin D production don’t make it through the glass.
If you find yourself in this situation, you’ll need to look for other ways to take advantage of the benefits of vitamin D. Here are a few ideas to boost the presence of vitamin D in your body.
1. Fish for Dinner
Fatty or oily seafood are good sources of vitamin D. Fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, swordfish, trout, and eel contain this essential nutrient.
For example, a 3.5 oz serving of wild-caught salmon offers approximately 988 IU of vitamin D. Keep in mind that farmed salmon offers only about 25% of that amount so you’ll want to stick with wild salmon.
The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 600 IU. Thus, a serving of salmon can give you what you need for a day and a little more. The body can store vitamin D so any extra that you get will be saved for later.
2. Cod Liver Oil
In lieu of eating wild salmon several times per week, you could get your daily intake from cod liver oil. Just 1 tablespoon contains about 1350 IU of vitamin D.
Turns out your grandma was right about eating cod liver oil. It really is good for you!
If you can stomach it, a quick spoonful each day will keep your vitamin D levels right where they should be all winter long. (Capsules are a good option too.)
3. Have a Drink … of Milk
Milk does not naturally contain vitamin D. However, in an effort to get more vitamin D to the population, most milk is fortified with vitamin D.
A glass of milk will contain about 20-25% of your recommended daily intake.
Unfortunately, there is some evidence that suggests fortified dairy products may contain only about 20% of the amount of vitamin D they claim to contain.
4. Egg Yolks
Forget about tossing the egg yolk if you want to get some vitamin D! One large egg yolk contains about 40 IU of vitamin D.
5. Take a Supplement
As you can see, getting enough vitamin D from food sources can be a bit challenging as well. To make sure you are getting enough vitamin D during the winter, you may want to talk with your doctor about the pros & cons of taking a high-quality supplement. The body can store vitamin D, so it’s possible to take too much. High levels of vitamin D in the body can be toxic and raise the risk of heart and kidney problems. Your doctor can advise the right IU for you, if even needed.
Remember that when summer rolls around and the sun comes out, you should stop taking the supplement altogether.
Healthy and Happy for Life
Vitamin D is just one piece of the puzzle when it comes to maintaining your health. A balanced diet and routine preventative care visits are important as well.
If you’re looking for superior medical care, check out our physician-led medical network. We put decisions about your health in the hands of you and your doctor.
Contact us today for more information!