As winter approaches, we find ourselves cooped up indoors more enjoying those hot cups of coffee or cocoa, and dismissing the idea of venturing out in the cold. However, our bodies need sunlight and vitamin D, especially in the winter when the days shorten.
It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D in the winter. The days are shorter and the weather is cold and gloomy and the dreaded cold and flu season is in full swing. But you definitely should venture outside some, because so many studies show that vitamin D helps reduce the risk of colds and flu, giving your immune system a huge boost. The Vitamin D Council recommends vitamin D to help prevent colds and flu (URI or upper respiratory infections) based on the findings of two large meta-analyses (the strongest proof in medicine) published in respected medical journals. The best dose to use is unknown (as all of us are different with different body compositions), but the Vitamin D Council recommends that adults take 5,000 to 10,000 IU per day, depending on body weight. Children should take at least 100 IU/kg/day.
It isn’t just about immunities either
Vitamin D supports essential bodily functions like immunity, but it also helps maintain brain, heart, and bone health. Because vitamin D is essential to cognitive function, it’s important to make it a top priority. Unfortunately, up to 77% of people in the United States may not be getting enough of this important vitamin.
“Because vitamin D is involved in supporting essential functions like immunity and cancer prevention, as well as neurological, cardiovascular, and bone health, it’s easy to see just how dangerous falling short can be,” Dr. Frank Lipman, MD, told INSIDER.
To get more vitamin D in the winter, just go outside on a sunny day. You will want to have some skin exposed, so it may be best to choose a day when it’s comfortable to go without gloves. Vitamin D from the sun is absorbed through the skin, and clothing will impede this absorption. If you have fair skin, you’ll only need 20 – 30 minutes of sun exposure three times per week to get enough flu-fighting vitamin D. If you have darker skin, you will need more time. Exposing your skin to the elements is still not fun and for some of us who live in colder climates where it rarely gets about 20 degrees in the winter, it may be best to get your dose of vitamin D somewhere else.
Food is great way to get some vitamin during the winter
There are actually two main forms of vitamin D found in food. Vitamin D3 is a more active form and found only from animal sources. Vitamin D2 is from plant sources. Both animals and plants need sunlight or UV exposure in order to produce vitamin D. If you like seafood, consider eating some oily fish such as sockeye salmon, mackerel, flounder, sole, swordfish, whitefish, sturgeon and rainbow trout. Each palm-sized serving of these fish will help you get 75% to 100% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin D, and they are loaded with Omega 3 fatty acids! You can’t go wrong with fish over the winter!
If you’re like me, and no matter how hard you’ve tried, you just can’t stomach fish, mushrooms are an excellent option. While mushrooms are technically fungi, not plants, they’re the only non-animal source of naturally occurring vitamin D. Wild mushrooms and those that are exposed to ultraviolet light have the highest vitamin D content. All it takes is about 1 cup of raw UV-exposed mushrooms to meet or exceed your daily vitamin D needs. That’s not too bad! Regularly munching on brown cremini, portabella, maitake and white button mushrooms can help give your body enough of this powerful and necessary vitamin.
If you live in an area where it is difficult to get fish and mushrooms, you may need to consider taking a supplement. Such consideration should be run past a medical professional first, however. Depending on where you live in the world and what kind of lifestyle you lead, you may be at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency. If you live in a place where most of your skin is covered in the winter and it rarely gets warm enough to venture beyond your front door without a parka and hat, you should talk to your doctor about getting enough vitamin D and what supplements could work out the best for you!