How to Get More Vitamin D During Fall & Winter
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is an essential nutrient for most all bodily functions. This key vitamin has not only been shown to increase immune system health and improve and prevent depression but has also been extensively studied for its ability to prevent degenerative diseases like osteoporosis, cancer, and diabetes. We need adequate vitamin D to survive and thrive.
Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is quite common due to factors such as inadequate sun exposure and not enough vitamin D-rich foods in the diet. Vitamin D comes in two main forms, D2 and D3. In the case of both foods and supplementation, D3 is the biologically active form of the vitamin that can best absorbed and used by the body.
Getting enough vitamin D is often easier said than done
Getting enough vitamin D is often easier said than done, especially in the fall and winter months and even all year round for those who live very far away from the equator where the sun’s rays aren’t as strong. Read on to dig a bit deeper into why vitamin D is so crucial for your health, and how to ensure you are getting enough as we head into winter.
Why is Vitamin D So Important For My Health?
A little known fact about vitamin D is that it is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it is dissolved and absorbed in the presence of dietary fat and stored in the body for long periods of time. Its primary functions include (but are definitely not limited to):
- Prevention of osteoporosis and other bone fractures or sprains
- Cancer prevention
- Increased immune health
- Increased mood and help with depression
- Prevention of type I diabetes
One study revealed that almost 42% of the population is vitamin D deficient. When narrowed down to ethnicity, these numbers rise to 82% of African Americans and almost 70% of Hispanics. Deficiency symptoms include:
- Rickets, a bone disease common amongst children in developing countries
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
- Bone pain and muscle weakness
- Poor immune health
How Much Vitamin D Do I Need?
While the RDA (recommended daily allowance) of vitamin D is set at 400 IU per day in order to maintain healthy levels, some health professionals think that many people need quite a bit more (and definitely more in the case of pregnant women and those who are sick).
Should I Supplement with Vitamin D?
We’ll get to food sources in just a minute, but one reason that vitamin D deficiency is so common is that it is actually quite difficult to get adequate amounts from food sources alone. This means that if you don’t live in a hot, sunny climate, supplementation is probably a good idea.
While you should always discuss supplementing with vitamin D with your doctor or trusted healthcare professional (and most doctors can offer vitamin D testing, and at-home test kits are available, as well), you’ll need to also be sure to pick a high quality product that your body can effectively absorb and assimilate, such as this one. Supplementing daily with cod liver oil can also be highly effective.
What are the Best Vitamin D Rich Foods?
Correcting vitamin D deficiency can be challenging with food sources alone, although including whole foods high in vitamin D is important for prevention. The food source highest in vitamin D is fish (wild salmon is an excellent choice), as well as beef liver and egg yolk. The next best sources include wild tuna and sardines.
Unless you are lucky enough to live in a tropical climate or take very regular vacations to hot and sunny destinations, supplementing with vitamin D and including food’s high in this essential vitamin (especially wild caught, fatty fish) should definitely be a high priority. Vitamin D deficiency isn’t something you want to mess around with, and it can be easily prevented by supplementation and a few simple dietary additions.
Rachel Fiske is a Holistic Nutrition Consultant and graduated from Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition in Berkeley, California. She is also a Certified Personal Trainer through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Rachel focuses on issues of weight management, GI problems, hormonal imbalances, fatigue and more via a whole foods diet and lifestyle changes.