By Christie Melhorn, May 19 2017 —
With the weather warming up, exposed arms and legs are reappearing on campus. Before the requisite May snowstorm shatters the illusion of spring, take advantage of the higher temperatures to increase your vitamin D intake.
Glamorously known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is produced when our skin is exposed to the sun and is associated with achieving a healthy summer glow. However, a warmer complexion is only a small part of the vitamin’s many health benefits.
According to the National Institute of Health, vitamin D supports calcium and phosphate absorption, which enhances bone production in youth and keeps body frames strong in adulthood. A sturdier skeleton means a decreased chance of osteoporosis — and a lower likelihood of needing a cast if you wipe out after having one too many glasses on half-price wine night.
With more vitamin D in your system, you may find your longing for wine night itself is less gripping. Chatlelaine explains that vitamin D suppresses appetite and increases serotonin production, which helps balance mood, cravings, sleep and motivation. This not only perks you up throughout the day, but can also ignite creative inspiration. You may feel compelled to take a cooking class or learn how to play an instrument, which could offer even more enrichment down the road.
Calgary may be one of Canada’s sunniest cities, but the brutal stretches of cold compromise our vitamin D levels. Health Canada says that people aged nine to 70 should get at least get 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D a day, but this is low in contrast to the “safe upper limit” of 4000 IUs a day. Still, this figure doesn’t reflect individual needs based on age, sex, ethnicity and other characteristics.
According to a 2013 Statistics Canada study, about 40 per cent of Canadians are vitamin D deficient in the winter months. Participants aged 20 to 39 had the lowest vitamin D levels.
This makes sense, as most people within that age range study or work full-time. Kelly Erdman, a certified specialist in sports dietetics at the University of Calgary, told Chatelaine that to get adequate levels of vitamin D from the sun we need 15 minutes of sun exposure on our bare arms, legs and face without sunscreen.
A busy student schedule coupled with the brittle cold complicates this. I get shivers just from seeing someone wearing ripped jeans in February. Even if you escape somewhere warm for a week or so during winter, it is difficult to sustain that brief vitamin D boost.
So soak up those rays before summer blooms! Osteopathic physician Joseph Mercola explains that our body produces vitamin D most efficiently between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m — not exactly the most accessible window if you’re working the nine-to-five. Whatever your schedule, try spending at least 15 minutes of your afternoon outdoors. Sipping your midday coffee outside or going on short walks can help achieve some benefits of Erdman’s recommended sun dosage.
While it may not be as soothing as time under the sun, particular foods and dietary supplements can also improve vitamin D levels. According to Health Canada, some of the best sources are fatty fishes, like salmon, and egg yolks — think of all the beautiful breakfast toasts you could make!
Mercola warns you still might not get enough vitamin D even with these foods in your diet. At the same time, too much vitamin D can lead to complications like kidney stones. Erdman advises meeting with your doctor to test your vitamin D levels before taking a supplement or cooking yourself under the sun.