Welcome Back, Vitamin D!

The past couple of weeks have been refreshingly sunny and there are smiles all around because of it. People are emerging from their homes, shaking off the winter doldrums, and participating in activities they haven’t done outside in months like playing basketball, jogging, and taking long walks- generally speaking, doing things that take longer than a few minutes and don’t require a snow shovel. This is a much-anticipated annual ritual here in the north and it’s all because of the sun’s reemergence.

The sun, in addition to bringing us warmer weather and longer days (which it would do all the time if our planet didn’t change its tilt the way it does), is also reviving us with good doses of natural vitamin D. This is great because vitamin D is critical for bone growth and bone remodeling and it also enhances our bodies’ ability to absorb calcium. Plus, it’s involved with cell growth, neuromuscular and immune functions, and reducing inflammation. Clearly, vitamin D is a good thing to have around!

We can contribute to our bodies’ vitamin D requirements (on average, healthy adults require 600 IU or 15 micrograms every day) by eating certain foods such as swordfish, salmon, eggs, some cheeses, and the wide world of fortified products (which make up most of our vitamin D intake) and taking supplements like cod liver oil, both of which are easy, effective, and essential methods for sun-deprived months. This isn’t to say we don’t get ANY vitamin D from the sun during fall and winter- we just don’t get nearly enough.

What’s really amazing about the way the sun provides vitamin D is that it actually triggers our bodies to create it ourselves. How cool is that?! When the sun’s UV rays hit our skin, it converts a specific cholesterol in our skin (7-dehydrocholesterol to be specific) to an intermediate substance called previtamin D3, which is then converted to vitamin D3. So when we step outside and bask in the return of sunny days, we’re unconsciously entering a partnership with the sun to supplement our bodies’ vitamin D requirements!

Depending on the season, cloud cover, time of day, and length of day, (not to mention your individual skin melanin levels), you might be able to reach your vitamin D needs just by spending some time outside during this newly returned sunshine. Then again, you might not; every body is unique and has its own unique requirements, and eating vitamin D-rich foods along with taking supplements might be a year-round part of your routine.

Either way, when you’re out walking the dog, shooting some hoops, or taking a leisurely stroll, you and the sun are doing your body a world of good!