Vitamind D – How do we adjust to lower sunlight exposure during the Winter months?
The clocks have now gone back and less hours of sunshine exposure are available.
No Sunshine = No problem!
Our bodies (and our needs) are directly related to the environment around us, and as the seasons change we tend to develop different nutritional needs.
- In warmer months we benefit from the abundance of vitamins and minerals available in all sorts of fresh and local foods. We naturally eat salads, more fruit and veggies, less processed foods and easily get a wider range of nutrients. We also drink more to keep hydrated and we carefully avoid sunburns. We wear lighter clothes and sweat more.
- However, in colder months we crave warming, comforting, more complex foods, usually rich in carbs and protein to give our bodies the fuel it needs, and we need to somehow make up for lower exposure to sunlight.
We tend to think that if we live in a warm/tropical country, where we are constantly exposed to the sunshine, we wouldn’t have to worry about Vitamin D insufficiency. However, studies have proven that this is not always the case. So no matter where we live – whether in a sunny hot destination or in a big city where buildings block sunlight – we’ll always have to pay special attention to the super important vitamin D.
It’s not strange that vitamin D is called by many as the “sunshine vitamin” because it’s produced in our skin in response to direct sunlight exposure. In summary, our bodies produce vitamin D naturally when direct exposure to sunlight occurs.
Why Is Vitamin D a super important Vitamin?
Our bodies must have vitamin D to absorb calcium and promote bone growth. Too little vitamin D will result in soft bones in children and fragile, misshapen bones in adults. Vitamin D also plays an important role in other body functions such as hormone regulation, immunity and in regulating mood and warding off depression.
In winter, when our skin is covered and more often indoors, is particularly important that we make sure we get enough Vitamin D as many of us can easily become deficient.
So what is the best way to maintain healthy levels of Vitamin D in winter?
Specially on a plant based diet, it’s imperative we get the recommended daily amount of Vitamin D (recommendations ranging from 400-1000 IU per day)*. Besides getting vitamin D through sunlight, we can also get it through certain foods and supplements. We can increase our bio-available levels of Vitamin D through these plant–based sources of vitamin D:
- fortified soy and almond milk
- orange juice
- other fortified foods
And we can also spend time outdoors, go to a rooftop nearby (like I do every lunch break! 😛 ) especially on sunny days!
Turn your face to the sun, expose your hands if it’s not too cold, exercise outdoors and go for mild walks regularly.
And if you are thinking (like I used to) that you can sunbathe indoors near a window to help your body absorb Vitamin “Sunshine”, don’t go that way (!!!), as most windows block out the ultraviolet light we need, so it is sad to say but this “won’t work”.
Share with us your Winter Vitamin D absorption techniques.
For some recipe inspiration, have a look at these Vitamin D rich meals: