Vitamin D is beneficial for your health and wellness, and during the winter months, we lose one of our best sources of vitamin D: plentiful sunlight.
The body manufactures its own vitamin D when it’s exposed to the sun’s rays, so when shorter days and cooler temperatures prevent us from spending time in the sun, we begin to deplete our resources.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, vitamin D plays a key role in Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. Many, many people suffer from SAD, which is essentially seasonal depression. In fact, Psychology Today estimates that 10 million Americans experience the disorder.
If you find that you often get the blues during the wintertime — or, if you’re just concerned about getting a healthy nutrient intake — you may want to consider these ideas for boosting your vitamin D levels.
Use Sun Lamps and Light Therapy
At-home sun lamps are a popular way to combat low vitamin D levels. However, you’re going to want to use these with great caution. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, note that UV is a concern for those using most at-home sun lamps. In order to manufacture vitamin D, the body must be exposed to UVB.
These products tend to only give you short bursts of UV– generally, up to five minutes’ worth. This is in an effort to combat the potential harm that can come from UV rays, such as accelerated aging, skin cancer and other forms of skin damage. Luckily, there are some UV-free alternatives to consider.
If you don’t live in an extremely cold climate, there’s no harm in bundling up and going for a walk. Even if it’s cold out, as long as the temperatures are tolerable, you’ll be doing your body more good than harm. Be sure to leave a small bit of skin, such as your forearms or face, exposed to the sun, and don’t stay out for longer than what feels good.
Eat More Fish and Eggs
If you’re not vegan, you’re going to want to eat a healthy amount of low-mercury fish and free-range eggs during the winter months. These foods are beneficial for maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D. In fact, did you know that Inuit populations were able to thrive simply by eating large fish, despite the extremely limited amount of sun exposure they faced during the winter months? This is because fish are so plentiful in levels of Vitamin D.
Take a Vegan Supplement
So what are the options for vegans? Unfortunately, there aren’t many.
“The only significant, natural sources of vitamin D in foods are fatty fish (e.g. cod liver oil, mackerel, salmon, sardines), eggs (if chickens have been fed vitamin D), and mushrooms (if treated with UV rays),” reports Vegan Health. “The vegan diet contains little, if any, vitamin D without fortified foods or supplements.”
So, if you’re vegan, you’re going to have to do some thorough digging to find vegan-friendly vitamin D sources. A few vegan vitamin D sources are available for purchase, but as noted by Vegan Health, some are not as easy for the body to absorb. Those who don’t eat animal products, therefore, should take extra care to get some sunlight on a daily basis to boost their own manufacture of vitamin D.
Supplement With Cod Liver Oil
Because fish is so rich in vitamin D, fish oils are a great way to boost your intake. They also have additional benefits for skin, hair and heart health. You can take them in supplement form or use them as a cooking oil. Both options will add vitamin D to your diet. Just be sure to look for fish oil that’s pure, sustainably raised and verified for low mercury levels.