The sunshine vitamin

January 23, 2023

Don’t let a little snow and cold keep you from going outside to get some exercise, enjoy the fresh air, and a little vitamin D from the sun.

Vitamin D is crucial to the body as one of its main purposes is in aiding calcium absorption to help maintain strong, healthy bones. Vitamin D also plays a role in other aspects of health including inflammation, autoimmune disease risk, heart health, and cognitive function.

During the summer months, most healthy people with fair skin can typically produce enough vitamin D by exposing their faces, arms, and legs to sunlight for about ten minutes several times per week during midday, when the sun’s rays are most powerful. People who have more melanin, or darker pigmentation, in their skin, need longer periods in the sun (in some cases up to three times as much time, though it depends on your skin tone) because melanin reduces vitamin D synthesis.

During the winter months of course sun exposure is more challenging as we cover up from the cold, and spend less time outside. The sun’s rays are also less “strong” and of course, the days are shorter. This makes it easy to see how vitamin D levels can drop within the body and we need to prioritize getting outside.

Your goal might not be to get outside every day in the winter, but certainly don’t let the milder days and the days when the sun is shining pass you by. The good news is the body can store vitamin D for short periods so still prioritizing just a few days a week can be enough.

Here are a few ideas for winter activities to help enjoy your time spent outdoors:

Take a walk and enjoy the birds, squirrels, and other critters. Without all the green vegetation it’s much easier to see all the movement in the trees and across the ground.

Adventure out after a fresh snowfall and build a snowman. It might put a smile on your face, and everyone else’s that gets to pass it by.

Of course, there are also tons of winter sports such as snowshoeing, skiing, ice skating, snowmobiling, and even sledding.

In addition to the sun’s natural vitamin D, there are some foods you can eat that offer vitamin D such as salmon, tuna fish, sardines, egg yolk, or cod liver oil. Some foods that can be fortified with vitamin D include: cow’s milk, soy milk, cereals, and orange juice.