Getting enough vitamin D is essential to your long-term health. It's relatively easy to get vitamin D through sun exposure most of the year, but that changes come wintertime.
Here's why vitamin D matters and how to keep your levels up, even when the days are short and the skies are snowy and gray.
Vitamin D absorbs calcium and helps you maintain strong bones. It also contributes to the health of your muscles, nerves, and immune system.
If you don't get enough vitamin D, you may be at risk for developing rickets, osteoporosis and other bone disorders, diabetes, hypertension, and cancer. Over 41 percent of U.S. adults don't get enough vitamin D. Older adults, people with dark skin, and those who are obese are more likely to have a vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D is called the "sunshine vitamin" because your body makes it when sunlight hits the skin. During the winter, it's more important to keep your vitamin D levels up because you are at greater risk for getting sick and tend to spend less time outdoors.
Here are simple ways to get there.
1. Make smart food choices
Loading up your diet with healthy options is one way to get your 600 IU of vitamin D daily. Foods like pork, mushrooms, fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, oysters, shrimp, sardines), cheese, and eggs yolks are naturally rich in vitamin D. You can also find many vitamin D-enriched options at the grocery store, such as cereals, soy milk, yogurt, and orange juice.
2. Opt to get outside
It may be cold outside, but you can still catch some rays. Take the long way to work, go for a short walk after lunch, or play in the snow with your kids. Spending 15 to 30 minutes outdoors three times a week (with sunscreen!) is all you need. If it's too chilly outside, try moving your desk so you can sit by a window.
3. Take a supplement
Stop by your doctor if you believe your vitamin D levels are low. They can perform a blood test to assess your current levels and order a prescription dose of vitamin D or recommend a supplement. Doses differ and taking too much vitamin D can be toxic, so always consult your physician before taking any supplements.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that many people don’t get enough of. That said, you can boost your vitamin D levels by eating foods rich in vitamin D, getting more sun exposure, and adding supplements to your diet. If you suspect you’re low in vitamin D, consult with your doctor to get your levels checked.