The Best Sources of Vitamin D That Aren't the Sun

Prevent wintertime vitamin D deficiency with these tips

flickr/Khánh Hmoong

The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are dropping, keeping us inside and away from the sun. But, the sun is important to our health. We recently discussed the many health benefits of spending time in the sun, including an increase in overall happiness and maintaining normal sleep patterns.

Sun exposure also helps lower blood pressure, prevent cancer and melanoma and betters bone health. These specific benefits and more are a result of a healthy vitamin D level. Sunshine boosts vitamin D supply. Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids which are responsible for helping to absorb calcium, iron, phosphate, zinc and magnesium. This process is important in building strong bones.

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to rickets or osteomalacia. It has recently been linked with also leading to breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, depression, weight gain, and heart disease. Studies show that people with more vitamin D have lower risks of these diseases.

The problem is that we often don’t get out in the sun enough to get the proper amount of vitamin D, especially in the wintertime. It’s important to find other ways to get vitamin D to help in preventing the diseases and abnormalities associated with its deficiency. The easiest ways to get your vitamin D is through adding supplements or certain foods to your diet in the sunless months.

1. Food
There are many different food options that are high in vitamin D, and while they do not supply quite as much as the sun can provide, they do offer additional help in sustaining healthy vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is particularly dominant in many fishes and seafood. Salmon, for instance has more than 100 IU per ounce as the highest natural occurrence of vitamin D in any food. Mushrooms also provide some vitamin D, and some companies even produce special mushrooms that are exposed to light increasing the amount of the vitamin. Some other foods include, oysters, shrimp, halibut, cod, eggs and dairy products with fortified milk.

2. Supplements
Make sure that the supplement you are taking is D3, cholecalciferol. Out of UVA and UVB rays, Vitamin D3 is what is synthesized by the sun. Our bodies take that D3 from sunlight, or sometimes sunlamps and the fat-soluble hormone is stored in the body.

3. Sun lamps
Sun lamps are another option; they provide light similar to that of the sun. The body then uses those rays for vitamin D. Often, people will use tanning beds at a very low strength to get their necessary vitamin D. Tanning beds are dangerous, and need to be set low to prevent from over exposure.

Sun exposure is the best way to get your vitamin D, but unfortunately sometimes we are unable to get all that we need. Note that being behind glass or a window is not the same as being out in the sun. Glass blocks UVB which your body needs to make vitamin D.

Because food provides a very small amount of vitamin D, supplements are the best option in the winter. But combining a small amount of sunlight with vitamin D filled foods can be a comparable option as well. There are many recommendations for specific amounts of daily intakes of vitamin D ranging from 600 to 5000 IU/day. But research shows that it is an important element of our health that shouldn't be ignored. 


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