Has the cold, long winter got you itching for some sunshine? With shorter days and less sunlight, getting enough of the “sunshine vitamin”, or vitamin D, can prove to be a challenge. Especially in the wintertime, it can be hard for us to get adequate amounts of the nutrient from the sun. So how exactly can we make sure we’re getting enough vitamin D in the winter? In fact, there’s actually other sources of the vitamin and ways to measure if you’re getting enough.
Before we get into it, what exactly is vitamin D? It’s an important nutrient that helps regulate your calcium and phosphorus levels, two minerals that are essential for your bone health. It’s even thought to be linked to Alzheimer’s disease and the cold and flu. Different age groups require different amounts of the nutrient. Those in between 1 to 70 years of age are recommended to have 600 IU (15 micrograms) per day.¹ Infants under 12 months of age need 400 IU (10 micrograms) per day while those over 70 years old require 800 IU (20 micrograms) per day.
Besides exposing your skin to sunlight, which can be scarce in the winter, you can also get vitamin D from dietary sources. There are certain foods that contain fair amounts of the vitamin, including fatty fishes, like salmon, tuna, and sardines, and eggs. In many countries, it’s also added to milk, and some yogurts, orange juices, and breakfast cereals. By tracking what you eat, you can roughly calculate how much vitamin D you’re getting from dietary sources. In many cases, it may be hard to get the recommended amount of the vitamin through food alone. You could also consider taking vitamin D supplements. These may exist as supplements of their own or as multivitamins, and are available at pharmacies. There are also vitamin drops that are available for infants.
If you’re worried about whether you’re getting enough vitamin D or not, you also have the option to take a blood test. The 25-hydroxyvitamin D test is the standard way to monitor vitamin D levels and reflects the amount of vitamin D your skin produces from the sun and how much you consume from foods and supplements. If you want to find out your exact levels, you should speak to your doctor about getting a blood test.
In addition, the Sun Index app is a free app that helps you stay safe in the sun while maintaining a healthy vitamin D status. An upcoming feature is a vitamin D manager that helps you manage your vitamin D intake. With the app, you’ll be able to track how much of the vitamin you get from the sun, dietary sources, and supplements. You’ll also be able to see if you’re getting enough of the nutrient and how much you need to meet your daily goals, as well as track your long-term progress. You can download the app first for iOS or Android, and stay on the lookout for the new update!
- National Institutes of Health. (2016). Vitamin D. Retrieved February 1st, 2018