How to avoid vitamin D deficiency this winter

With winter upon us, our exposure to the sun is decreasing by at least two hours a day.

One in three Australians are deficient in vitamin D. Getting enough vitamin D through safe sun exposure, diet and/or supplements is imperative for general good health and to help fight off chronic diseases.

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with a range of health conditions from multiple sclerosis to polycystic ovary disease.

You may be at risk of low vitamin D levels if you:

  • Don't get out much in the sun
  • Are obese (vitamin D is stored in fat, but doesn’t get out again until the fat is broken down, i.e. with when weight is lost).
  • Have naturally dark skin (darker skin tones contain more melanin, which blocks the absorption of ultraviolet light) and/or cover up with clothing.
  • Have very fair skin. Some research suggests that people with fair skin may be lacking in vitamin D partly due to sun avoidance because of the fear of sunburn.

Nutritionist at USANA Health Sciences, Ravinder Lilly, encourages taking some simple steps and introducing minor adjustments to daily routines and diet in order to improve your vitamin D levels. According to her, there are three key ways to boost vitamin D levels:

1. Go out for a quick afternoon walk

In winter, the sun exposure to arms or equivalent needs to be around noon and for seven minutes (Cairns) to 30-40mins (Hobart) most days spread over a week to maintain adequate vitamin D levels.
During winter the energetic UV that produces vitamin D is not around in early morning or late afternoon so it is important to get out in the sunshine during the afternoon. Take a stroll during your lunch break and roll up your sleeves or take your jacket off to allow the sun to reach the skin.

2. Eat Vitamin D-containing foods


Ravinder says  the vast majority of our vitamin D intake is made by sun exposure on the skin; eating vitamin D-rich foods contributes around 10 per cent of your requirements.

These foods include:
• Liver (this isn’t suitable if you’re pregnant or planning a pregnancy as it can contain very high levels of vitamin A which can be toxic in large doses).
• Oily fish – like salmon, sardines and fresh tuna.
• Fortified foods including breakfast cereals, eggs and milk. Full-fat milk contains the most vitamin D and that is one reason that whole milk is best for toddlers and young children.

3. Try a good quality supplement


Even low levels of vitamin D have been linked with health problems. Supplements can raise your blood levels of vitamin D if the deficiency is moderate but if levels are very low, you may need injections of vitamin D to raise blood levels rapidly. Although the sun is the major source of vitamin D, if you have a diagnosed deficiency, exposing yourself to the amount of sun needed to raise your D levels could pose a health risk.

For more information on USANA Health Sciences visit www.usana.com

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