Why You Need More Vitamin D in Winter

The short| dark days of Winter are here| so it’s even more important to make sure you are getting enough vitamin D. Dietitian Julie Upton| MS| RD| of Appetite For Health explains why.

The cold| dark days of Winter may be a real threat on your health| thanks to the precipitous drop of vitamin D| aka the “sunshine vitamin|” during this time of year.

Seasonal variations in vitamin D status are well documented: a recent University of California-Irvine and Mayo Clinic study with 3.44 million blood samples of Americans found that serum vitamin D levels are highest in August after several months of exposure to sunshine and lowest in February due to dwindling daylight. In fact| a national survey of US women reported that 42 percent are considered vitamin D deficient.

While vitamin D is essential to absorb calcium for bone health| the sunshine vitamin’s benefits extend well beyond your bones. Vitamin D is essential for the immune system and improves insulin sensitivity| mood| and muscular strength. It’s also thought to help in reducing belly fat and protects against autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes| rheumatoid arthritis| and multiple sclerosis. Some studies even suggest low vitamin D may up risk for several types of cancer (including breast) and dementia.

How Much Vitamin D Is Enough?

The Institute of Medicine recommends 600 IU per day for adults| but many other experts believe that 1|000-2|000 IU is optimal. Try incorporating natural sources of vitamin D and vitamin-D-enriched foods into your diet to get at least 600 IU per day. A supplement of vitamin D2 or D3 can also help ensure that you’re getting enough.

Vitamin-D-Rich Foods

Vitamin D is notoriously hard to get because only a few foods naturally contain it. Cod liver oil| fatty fish| egg yolks| liver| and mushrooms are the few foods that naturally contain significant amounts of vitamin D| but you can also find foods and beverages fortified with it| like milk and nondairy beverages. Use the list below to boost vitamin D in your diet.

Other Foods With Vitamin D1 tablesoon cod liver oil: 1|360 IU3 ounces wild Alaskan Sockeye (red) salmon (all salmon contains vitamin D| but wild Alaskan is highest and is also sustainable): 930 IU3 ounces canned Alaska Sockeye (red) salmon: 790 IU1 large fortified egg: 120 IU1 cup fortified soymilk| 120 IU1 cup fortified milk| 100 IU6 ounces yogurt (varies by brand; many contain no vitamin D): 40-100 IU1 cup fortified orange juice (varies by brand): 100-130 IU1 tablespoon Country Crock With Calcium & Vitamin D: 80 IU1 large egg yolk: 40 IU1 ounce swiss cheese: 12 IU

Values from USDA Nutrient Database and manufacturers’ websites.

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