Vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin. That’s because sunlight is our No. 1 source of the nutrient: The sun’s energy turns a chemical in our skin into vitamin D3, which Harvard Medical School explains is then carried to the liver and kidneys to transform it into active vitamin D that we can use to help fuel a healthy lifestyle. After all, vitamin D plays an important role in human health, protecting us from everything from bone fractures to prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, neuromuscular problems and diabetes. But what happens during the winter months when we don’t spend as much time outdoors? Is it still possible to get 600 international units a day?
“Not many food sources have vitamin D.”
According to Intermountain Healthcare, in parts of the country that sit above the 37th parallel (37 degrees latitude) – anywhere north of Los Angeles, basically – the sun sits very low in the sky from November to March, meaning it’s much more difficult for people to get the recommended amount of daily vitamin D from the sun. As a result, our bodies have to use up the vitamin D that was stored during the summer or get more from foods and supplements. But not many food sources have vitamin D.
If you’re not getting at least 15 minutes of exposure to mid-day sunlight every day or you live above the 37th parallel, you do have some options. Add foods like these into your meal preparation plans each week during the winter:
Fortified products like milk, juice, cereal and tofu can also help you achieve your daily recommended dose.
There are several good sources of vitamin D that you can get from your diet.
If you're not a fish or dairy person, a supplement may be a good alternative. Talk it over with your health care provider to make sure you're getting all the vitamin D you need to stay healthy and active this winter.