With the shortening of the days comes the inevitable lack of opportunity to soak up that warm Aussie sunshine (and the inevitable onslaught of complaining in offices countrywide that people are leaving the house in the dark, and getting home in the dark). We feel ya. It happens every year, but it still takes us by surprise. The whole situation makes us wanna hibernate, eat apple and blackberry crumble with custard at each and every mealtime (just me?) and, worryingly, can also result in a vitamin D deficiency in a lot of people.
Vitamin D is getting some serious airtime lately, thanks to high levels of sunscreen use and sedentary lifestyles, meaning that people simply aren’t getting enough time in the sun. This can be hazardous for health; and a lack of this fat-soluble vitamin has been associated with weak bones, depression, anxiety and allergies. It’s also thought to be essential for fertility, with studies showing that vitamin D can increase a man’s sperm count, and increase a couples chances of falling pregnant if using IVF.
Luckily, there are things you can do to make sure you’re still get enough Vit D, even during winter. Here are four ways to keep things sunny on the inside, even when it ain’t sunny on the outside:
While eating a diet tailored to vitamin D deficiency will never rival time spent outside in the sun, you can boost your intake during winter by focusing on incorporating certain foods into your daily meals. Small amounts of vitamin D can be found in fatty fish such as herring, salmon, tuna and sardines, as well as cod liver oil, beef, liver, butter, and eggs. Mushrooms are also a good source of vitamin D, and many grocery stores sell mushrooms that have been grown with extra exposure to UV light, making them an even richer source. Our bodies store vitamin D so it’s important to eat high-quality foods which contain this nutrient. Go for wild fish, organic eggs and grass-fed meat to get the best possible nutrition.
Since it’s difficult to get vitamin D exclusively through food, supplementation is the next port of call for those with a deficiency. It’s always worth bearing in mind that vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so opting for a supplement that includes an oil like coconut is a good idea. Remember to retest your levels every three months—vitamin D levels that are too high can also be problematic for your health. She’s a fickle one, ain’t she?
We know, we know, you’re at work all day either in meetings, at your desk or eating lunch on the fly. However, you’ve gotta prioritise. Why not get to work half an hour earlier so you can spend 30 minutes outside on your lunch break? Wrap up warm and take a walk in the sunshine—even if you work in the inner-city—you’ll quickly feel the mental and physical benefits of taking time away from your desk and topping up your vitamin D stores while you’re at it.
Light therapy, which uses blue LED lights, is a safe alternative to supplementation for those with a vitamin D deficiency. It produces vitamin D at a dimmer light intensity than bright white lights and at a lower wavelength in the spectrum, minimising the risks associated with UV exposure. These lights, in tandem with elevating vitamin D levels, are great at tackling Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).