A Winter Guide to Vitamin D

When preparing to leave the house consists of an elaborate layering practice and the sun retreats while you’re still tapping away on your laptop, the idea of spending time outside is pretty much unfathomable. Unless you love to ski, simply surviving winter can feel like a considerable accomplishment -- why would you subject yourself to any more than the bare minimum? Limiting your encounters with the great outdoors can have its drawbacks, though. Less exposure to the sun means fewer opportunities for vitamin D to synthesize in the skin. Playing a role in immunity, bone health, and cognitive functioning, vitamin D is an important part of your overall well-being -- and 66% of people around the world are deficient. 

So, how do you make sure you’re getting enough of what you need? We’ll start with the most difficult, and that’s spending time in the sunlight. Don’t worry, though - we’re not telling you that you need to go for hour-long walks every day in the dead of winter. Getting yourself outside for just a few minutes each day can have an impact, even if that means a quick morning walk before eating breakfast or heading to work. Although wearing SPF is key to preventing skin cancer, doing so prevents vitamin D synthesis, so it’s a good idea to take this short walk before applying. Keep in mind that UV rays are unable to project through glass, so the natural light in your house or apartment (unfortunately) won’t cut it. 

Certain foods can provide vitamin D as well, and some of the best plant-based sources include mushrooms and fortified plant-milks (such as soy, almond, or oat -- just check the label, the Nutrition Facts should list the amount). And when it comes to mushrooms, wild is best, as they get the most sun exposure, but you can also look for mushrooms that have been commercially exposed to UV. When buying any mushroom, just make sure you’re purchasing from someone you trust, like your neighborhood farmer’s market or frequented grocery store. 

If you’re especially worried about vitamin D deficiency, you might consider incorporating a daily supplement. But before you order the first one you see, it’s important to talk to your doctor. Getting a blood test done is the only way to know if you’re truly deficient, and if you are, your doctor can help you find the supplement that’s right for you.