By Danny Turner, UMD Dietetic Intern
Winter means layering up, hiding from the cold by staying indoors, and fewer daylight hours. All of these reduce the amount of sun exposure you get, and this can put you at risk for developing a deficiency in vitamin D. We’ll look at why this is the case, and what you can do about it this Winter!
Vitamin D is unique among the vitamins and minerals we get from food, because relatively few foods have much natural vitamin D. Instead, your body produces the vitamin from a molecule similar to cholesterol when your sun is exposed to radiation from the sun! Some things can reduce the amount of vitamin D you get from sun exposure, including darker skin tones, age, and sunscreen. That said, the benefits of using sunscreen outweigh the risks of vitamin D deficiency, so keep on using it during the warm seasons!
Your body needs vitamin D to do many things, from gene expression to immune function. It is also crucial for the strength of your bones; vitamin D helps the gut absorb calcium into the blood, and together they maintain bone integrity. A deficiency in vitamin D puts you at risk for early-onset osteoporosis.
So what can you do to get enough vitamin D this winter? Here’s a list of the foods that naturally contain the vitamin:
If you eat these foods regularly and spend time outdoors in the warm seasons, you are probably set. That said, many people choose to take a vitamin D supplement, usually in the form of a multivitamin. Just remember to follow the instructions on the package, vitamin D (and other vitamins and minerals) can be dangerous at high levels.
Finally, a disclaimer: this blog does not claim to offer medical advice, and if you’re truly concerned about getting enough vitamin D, talk to your doctor. A blood test can show if you’re deficient, and your doctor can help you decide if you need a prescribed supplement.
Terps With Taste is run by the Student Nutritionist Team with University of Maryland Dining Services. We write content for students, by students. Enjoy!