What is vitamin D? You might know it as the sunshine nutrient, but what does it do in your body and why do you need more in winter?
Vitamin D serves various functions, including helping you absorb calcium for healthy bones. Furthermore, it improves immunity against infections and mitigates inflammation, which is critical during the cold and flu season. It may even reduce cancer risk.
Unfortunately, many people fall short of their recommended dietary allowance during the colder months. How can you prevent deficiency and reap the benefits? Here are five ways to combat vitamin D deficiency this winter.
1. Eat A Hearty Breakfast
The first meal of the day might not always be the most important, but it’s crucial in winter. Why? The following foods are all excellent natural sources of vitamin D while offering other nutritional benefits:
- Egg yolks
- Fortified cereals
- Fortified juices and milk
You now have another reason to enjoy a hearty Sunday brunch. Many of these foods are also grab-and-go, making them ideal for busy workday mornings, too.
2. Go Fishing
Seafood is another rich vitamin D source. Furthermore, such meals offer other nutrients your body needs, such as omega-3 fatty acids. There are three forms of this nutrient — docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and alpha-linolenic acid. DHA and EPA only occur naturally in fish, although some eggs are fortified with DHA.
What should you add to your menu? Salmon, tuna and shellfish are all impressive sources of vitamin D and omega-3s. Tuna has the added advantage of featuring a low price point, which is critical in today’s world of soaring food inflation. Are you watching your mercury intake? Opt for chunk light tuna in water over albacore — it comes from a smaller fish with lower concentrations of the problematic substance.
3. Take A Supplement
Even if you eat a healthy diet, you’re human. Everyone occasionally eats chips for dinner instead of prepping a tuna salad. Fortunately, you can ensure you combat vitamin D deficiency this winter by taking a supplement.
First, understand that you might see two different versions of this supplement on store shelves — D2 and D3. What’s the difference and which one should you choose?
- D2 – Also called ergocalciferol, this type comes only from foods.
- D3 –Your body makes this type — known as cholecalciferol — from the sun. It’s also found in food.
Both forms of vitamin D perform similar functions in the body. However, research indicates D3 supplementation results in higher blood levels of the hormone than D2. Some prescription vitamin D supplements contain D2, but you’re better off sticking with D3 when selecting over-the-counter products.
4. Go Outside (Depending On Where You Live)
Did you know the sun is the ultimate vitamin D supplement source? Best of all, your body won’t manufacture more than it needs, eliminating your overdose risk. Plus, it simply feels good to expose your skin to natural light for at least 10 to 15 minutes daily.
However, this method won’t work over the winter if you live in Boston or Seattle. Those who live above 37° parallel north of the equator — a fair portion of the United States — can’t produce sufficient vitamin D from the sun during the months with the shortest days. Your solution is to double down on your supplement and food intake.
5. Try A UV Lamp
Do you have seasonal depression? If so, you might know a UV lamp that mimics the sun’s rays is one way to combat your blues. Guess what? It could also help you combat vitamin D deficiency this winter, giving you a 2-for-1 bonus.
However, you should be selective in what type of lamp you buy — some models only increase UVB with no UVA exposure. One that produces both forms may do a better job of helping your body use more of this substance.
Fighting Vitamin D Deficiency In Winter
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that plays various roles in maintaining optimal health. It’s particularly crucial during the coldest time of year as it improves immune function. However, that’s unfortunately when many people fall short.
Use the above methods to combat vitamin D deficiency this winter. You could reduce your chances of getting sick and improve your overall health.