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Vitamin D: Essential for Your Winter Diet

Being outside in the sunshine gives you lots of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is unusual because it can be ingested as cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3) or ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2) and also because your body can synthesize it (from cholesterol) when sun exposure is adequate (hence its nickname, the "sunshine vitamin") thanks to your exposed skin in the warmer months.

However as the days grow longer and the sun shines less, people often develop a Vitamin D deficiency in the winter months. A lack of Vitamin D causes your body to start storing extra fat (thanks to evolution, our bodies naturally start storing more fat during the winter months for survival purposes).

Thus as it gets colder humans start wearing more clothing, covering up more (which means less Vitamin D being synthesized through your exposed skin), and the shortage of Vitamin D results in you packing on the extra pounds.

HOWEVER you can fix this through 4 methods:

#1. Go outside and exercise!

Even if you just go for a walk, it doesn't take much to get your daily Vitamin D needs outside. Running around in a swimsuit in the summer you can get all you need in a mere 5 minutes. Wearing a jacket, hat, scarf, etc in the winter and its going to take 60 to 90 minutes outside in the sun.

#2. Vitamin D supplements. Huzzah for Vitamins!

Pay attention to the dosage on the bottle and how much Vitamin D you eat / absorb anyway. Ideally you want 5,000 to 10,000 IUs per day (depending on your size/weight) or the equivalent in micrograms, which is 125 to 250 micrograms per day. A typical Vitamin D pill might have 25 mcg/1000 IUs or 50 mcg/2000 IUs in it.

1 or 2 pills, plus your regular food (depending on what you are eating) should provide all your daily needs. Don't bother to overdo it.

#3. Regular foods. Track your current Vitamin D consumption.

Some of the foods you are eating might have Vitamin D in it already. eg. 125 ml of 2% Milk has 25% of your daily Vitamin D needs. That is roughly the amount you put on your cereal in the morning. It helps to check the label. Thus if you LOVE milk and drink a litre per day you are getting 100% of your Vitamin D needs just from the milk.

#4. Eat foods that are high in Vitamin D.

If you are low in Vitamin D you can increase your intake of foods high in Vitamin D to compensate.

Now immediately you think fruits and vegetables, and you are partially correct. Some veggies are high in Vitamin D, but there are number of foods that are even higher in Vitamin D.
  • Shiitake & Button Mushrooms (especially dried shiitake mushrooms). Mushrooms in general are rich in Vitamin B and D.
  • Mackerel. A 2 ounce portion of Mackeral provides 51% of your daily Vitamin D needs. Also rich in Omega-3.
  • Sockeye Salmon. Same as Mackerel. A 2 ounce portion provides 51% and is rich in Omega-3.
  • Herring. These fish eat plankton, which is really high in Vitamin D.
  • Sardines. A single small tin of sardines provides 70% of your daily needs.
  • Catfish. You won't see catfish in your average supermarket, but like herring its chockful of Vitamin D.
  • Tuna. 3 ounces of tuna daily provides 50% of your Vitamin D needs.
  • Cod Liver Oil. If you can get past the aroma, 1 tablespoon of the oil provides more than enough Vitamin D for the day.
  • Eggs. 1 small egg provides 10% of your daily needs.

Health Benefits of Vitamin D
  • Helps prevent cancer, osteoporosis, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension.
  • Protects and lubricates of your bones, teeth and hair.
  • Regulates muscular cellular growth and healthy cell activity.
  • Reduces storage of fat.
  • Reduces the inflammatory response to cancer, diabetes, obesity, etc.
  • Protects against adult osteoporosis.
  • Reduces risk of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men.
  • Reduces the "Winter Blues", the feeling of depression from lack of sun.
 Tracking your vitamin consumption can be quite helpful in understanding what your body needs.

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