Saturday, April 12, 2014

Happy Spring! It's time to get outside and soak up some vitamin D!

It was a LONG winter here in Massachusetts this year. The snow has melted and the daffodils are finally starting to bloom. I don’t think I’m alone when I say I have been itching to get outdoors more. It feels like spring and summer give me unlimited amounts of energy. While winter makes me want to hibernate into a world of throw blankets and Netflix. Is anyone with me on that?

A lot of this lack or excess of energy has to do with our vitamin D levels. Here in New England it is nearly impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D in the winter, and supplementing just isn’t the same if you ask me.

So what is the deal with vitamins D anyways you ask? Well for starters it is needed for muscle movement. Vitamins D allows for communication between our brain and muscles. It is also necessary for strengthening bones, by allowing the body to absorb calcium (that’s why you will see D added to most calcium supplements). D is also needed for immune function to fight off any bacteria and viruses that we come into contact with.

If you are not getting enough vitamin D you may feel tired/sluggish, get sick often, and feel achy. In extreme situations you may get frequent infections, and have pain in your bones and joints.

As you know this is a vitamin, but it is really not that easy to get from food sources. Most foods we eat with D in them are fortified. The best way to get vitamin D is through sunlight. As soon as UVB rays hit your skin, a chemical reaction starts producing vitamin D. Amazing stuff huh?

Here are a few tips to help you get some more vitamins D in your life.
  • Get outside! Let some sun shine on your skin. Everyone is different, but the average person only needs about 20 minutes of sun a day to meet their daily needs. But always get inside before your burn yourself, that’s never any fun.
  • Supplement. This is great during winter, but never go overboard. Your body will store vitamin D until it is needed; if you take too much for a long period of time you could damage your liver. Stick with the Food and Nutrition Board’s recommendation of 600IU daily. You can also get a recommendation from your doctor based on a blood test.
  • Mushrooms. These are similar to our skin; they get boosted with D when exposed to sunlight. However some producers grow mushrooms in the dark. So read your labels! Make sure they contain vitamins D before you buy them.
  • Fish. Think fatty fish; like salmon, mackerel, and tuna. 3oz of salmon contains about 450IU. That’s almost the 600 you need!
  • Breakfast. Lots of breakfast foods contain D. Most cereals are fortified with it (just skip the sugary junk). Also eggs, about 40IU each yolk. Milk and Orange juice are normally fortified too. A combo of those items may help you reach your daily goal. 

So get out of hibernation mode and start making up for lost time. Go outside for some sunshine and fresh air. Your body will thank you.

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