While eating all of our favorite foods – especially during the holidays when, let’s face it, we all eat a bit more than we probably should! – we often overlook the fact that, while tasty, so many foods are also excellent sources of vital nutrients. One of the most important nutrients that Pacific Northwesterners need in our diets has to be Vitamin D. People who live in particularly sunny climates get a good portion of their D just by being exposed to the sun. We are blessed with an unusually sunny climate here in the San Juans, but during the winter, it sure can get awfully dark, for days or weeks at a time, and lacking Vitamin D can be detrimental to your health in several ways.
Vitamin D is an important nutrient when it comes to warding off diseases. Our bodies produce it from UVB light, so that explains why many people in darker winter climates like ours are deficient in D. Not having enough in your system can even cause seasonal depression, a very real threat. We want to make sure you know where to get your daily dose of D!
First off, try spending some time in the sun. You’ve all heard over and over that it’s dangerous to be exposed to the sun without sunscreen. So naturally, you might think that you can’t win – how are you supposed to absorb Vitamin D from UVB rays if those rays are so dangerous! According to this article in the New York Times, most people do not apply enough sunscreen to get the full effects, which allows some sunlight to sneak through. Even a tiny amount is enough to produce Vitamin D. If you want to try it without SPF, you can hang out in the sun twice a week for up to a half hour.
Another thing you can do is eat! Many of your favorite foods are excellent sources of Vitamin D, including milk, orange juice and – especially convenient for us islanders – salmon.
If you prefer, you can also take a supplement. I take a Vitamin D capsule daily, along with an Omega-3 capsule (I don’t eat fish)! I find that taking a supplement means I don’t have to worry about my lack of D consumption. Of course, my mother worries, so for Christmas, she plans on sending me a lamp that stimulates sunlight and has been proven to combat seasonal depression. I can’t wait to try it out and see if it reminds me of my native Florida!
Stay warm, and don’t forget your Vitamin D!