Vitamin D is often nicknamed “the sunshine vitamin” because it enters the body in 2 ways, one of which is through the skin when it comes into contact with the sun. Aside from producing Vitamin D in our own skin under these conditions, the other way we acquire Vitamin D is through the foods we eat.
Vitamin D is mostly responsible for:
- Maintaining a healthy metabolism
- Balancing calcium stores in the body
- Promoting healthy bones
- Helping to prevent diabetes
- Helping with mood and hormone regulation
- Aiding in healthy blood pressure
- Possibly helping to prevent various forms of cancer (breast, colon, prostate, ovary for example)
Vitamin D deficiency is very common:
Vitamin D serves many important purposes in the body, but unfortunately many studies show that it is hard for most adults to get enough of the crucial Vitamin from the sun and their diet alone. According to Scientific America, 75% of teens and adults are deficient.
Even when someone eats a pretty healthy diet overall- with foods including fish, cheese, eggs, and mushrooms which are all good sources of absorbable Vitamin D- our environment often makes it hard to acquire enough Vitamin D from the outdoors. Because so many of us spend a lot of time indoors working, or we are careful to wear sunscreen when outside and exposed to the sun, most adults and children too in developed nations are believed to deficient in Vitamin D and at risk for negative conditions because of it.
A Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to many chronic health conditions, including:
- Low energy/chronic fatigue, mood swings, depression and anxiety, and even heart disease and diabetes.
- Recently, studies have shown that deficiency in Vitamin D especially increases feelings of fatigue and sometimes sadness, especially during dark winter months when we get even less sunshine and light
- And other research lately puts a spotlight on Vitamin D deficiency contributing to hypertension, the hardening of important arties hat carry blood flow to and from your heart. “Primary hypertension” is diagnosed when doctors are unable to determine a specific medical condition that could be to blame for someone’s high blood pressure. This is the case in almost 90-95% of the people diagnosed with high blood pressure, and it’s now believed that low Vitamin D levels are one of the key deficiencies that may be to blame.
Since Vitamin D plays an active role in reducing inflammation in the body, low levels are associated with a range of diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and more.
So how should you make sure you acquire enough Vitamin D?
Most physicians recommend taking a good-quality supplement to cover your bases; according to Harvard Public Health, at least 600 IU daily (and up to 4,000 IU for some people more in need) is the recommended amount, along with eating plenty of Vitamin D-rich foods.
Another great way to “kill 2 birds with one stone”? Get your Vitamin D by exercising outside. If you live in an area where it’s relatively sunny most of the time, take your workout outdoors for the added benefit of some sunshine. Exercise, similarly to Vitamin D, improves our mood due to its effect on our “feel good hormones”, making us feel more optimistic, more confident, and livelier after a good outdoor workout. This is because exercise releases endorphins, and these can have huge benefits all winter long as you struggle to get enough happy-sunshine into your days.