How to Get Vitamin D When It’s So Darn Gray Outside

Josey Murray

Written by Josey Murray | Edited By: Aditi Khandelwal

Vitamin D is an essential vitamin for our bodies to properly function. Unfortunately, many of us don’t get enough of it. Whether we aren’t spending enough time in the sun or we’re not eating enough foods rich in the vitamin, we all need to be conscious of our vitamin D levels, and adjust accordingly. If you’re like me and live in a place that seems to be overcast all the time, and the winter months don’t exactly provide a delightful atmosphere for sitting outside and bathing in that warm sun. In this article, we’ll help you navigate how to get all the Vitamin D you need when it’s so darn gray outside. 

Winter sucks for a lot of reasons. It becomes too cold to go outside and let nature refresh us. While the snow is picturesque,  it often melts the next day leaving a mushy mess of mud. On top of all of that, this winter, we are still in the midst of a global pandemic – which means no gathering with friends, no eating out at restaurants, and hardly much movement at all. And unless you live in Southern California or the sunshine state of Florida, the sun is just not around. This is not the ideal recipe for having a good time. Let’s prevent the situation of you being down and low on energy and start making sure we all get enough Vitamin D to fuel our bodies and keep us happy.

Vitamin D deficiency is an epidemic.

So this is kind of crazy but during my research on the importance of Vitamin D I came upon an academic paper the first few sentences of which stated…

“Vitamin D deficiency is a global health problem. With all the medical advances of the century, vitamin D deficiency is still epidemic. Over a billion people worldwide are vitamin D deficient or insufficient.” (1)

An epidemic! Can you believe it? I mean I knew we all needed more Vitamin D, but apparently, it’s a global health problem. So now we have an actual pandemic and an epidemic of Vitamin D deficiency! 

What can a Vitamin D Deficiency Cause?

Vitamin D is essential for our bodies to function well. Without it, things don’t go well. 

“Vitamin D3 deficiency can result in obesity, diabetes, hypertension, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, osteoporosis, and neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s disease. Vitamin D deficiency may even contribute to the development of cancers, especially breast, prostate, and colon cancers. Current research indicates vitamin D deficiency plays a role in causing seventeen varieties of different cancers as well as heart disease, stroke, autoimmune diseases, birth defects, and periodontal disease. Vitamin D3 is believed to play a role in controlling the immune system (possibly reducing one’s risk of cancers and autoimmune diseases), increasing neuromuscular function and improving mood, protecting the brain against toxic chemicals, and potentially reducing pain.” (1)

What is a Vitamin D Deficiency?

Be sure to check with your doctor if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of a deficiency, including getting sick often, feeling fatigued, experiencing bone, back, or muscle pain, feeling depressed, wounds not healing properly, experiencing hair loss. (2) They can run a blood test and see where you stand (Vitamin D insufficiency is 20–29 ng/mL and Vitamin D deficient is ≤ 20 ng/mL). (1With their guidance and your new knowledge of the sources of Vitamin D, you’re ready to tackle these winter months.

 

 

Tough winter months can be depressing and fatiguing and that is definitely not something you want when you are already living the bleak reality of a global pandemic. We want to nourish our bodies the best we can, and with a little more knowledge about the vitamins our bodies need to function we can care for our bodies more fully. Especially during this time of increased stress and risk of infection, we want to make sure we are ready and resilient. 

Sources of Vitamin D

I have included vegan-friendly and non-vegan-friendly sources of Vitamin D in order to suit your dietary needs and restrictions. It is a little harder for vegans to get Vitamin D, but it’s nothing we can’t do. For non-vegans or vegetarians, it’s all about adding fatty fish and some eggs.

Vegan-Friendly Sources

Sunshine

Obviously. This is the most direct way to get your daily needs for Vitamin D met. According to Medical News Today, people with lighter skin need about fifteen minutes, and people with darker skin need a couple of hours. (3)

It’s important to not spend too much time in the sun as that increases the risk of skin cancer. 

Being inside with the sun shining in through a window doesn’t count. The window actually blocks the UVB rays needed for the body to make Vitamin D. Long story short — get outside (if you can and if you live in a place where the sun actually comes out during the day.) Hopefully, you don’t live in one of the top ten cities with the least amount of sunny days — my hometown is number 11…

 You can check out the full list here

But don’t worry if your city is on this list. There are other ways to get Vitamin D, and we’ll get you feeling better quickly.

Sunshine
Least Sunny Cities in the US

Mushrooms

If you’ve kept up with our blogs, you’ll know that mushrooms are an insane superfood capable of so much more than just going on pizza. There are mushrooms fit for increasing your focus, helping you relax, and promoting your overall wellness. Another amazing ability that mushrooms have is their possession of Vitamin D. 

Recipe Recommendation:

A delicious Vegan Mushroom Soup for those cold winter days when you need a little more vitamin D.

 Mushrooms are the only thing in the produce section of your grocery store that has Vitamin D, so let’s embrace their unique ability to possess this necessary vitamin. It’s all about their exposure to the sun. You can even pack more Vitamin D into your mushrooms by exposing them to the sun over a few days. You can do this in the summer months when the sun is abundant, and eat them in the winter to supplement your vitamin D intake. Let’s look at the process Paul Stamets follows to enhance the Vitamin D in his shiitake mushrooms. 

Paul Stamets’s Process to Add More Vitamin D to Mushrooms

“1) Obtain fresh Organic shiitake, maitake, button, oyster, shimeji, or other mushrooms.

2) On a sunny day in June, July or August, slice the fresh mushrooms. Place them evenly on a tray exposed directly to the sun from 10 am to 4 pm.

3) Before nightfall, cover the mushrooms with a layer of cardboard to block moisture from dewfall.

4) The next clear day repeat exposure to the sun from 10 am to 4 pm.

5) Remove the mushrooms and finish drying (if necessary in a food dehydrator until they are crispy).

6) When thoroughly dry, store in a glass jar or sealed container. Adding a tablespoon of uncooked rice as a moisture absorber will help keep the mushrooms dry. The mushrooms should be good for a year or more, depending upon conditions.

7) Take 10 grams daily per person, about a small handful. Rehydrate in water for one hour. The mushrooms will swell. Then cook as desired.” (4)

Fortified Foods

I mentioned before how vitamin D deficiency is considered an epidemic. Therefore, the government and food manufacturers have responded by fortifying foods with Vitamin D. This actually started in the thirties to prevent rickets from affecting people.

It is important to understand that these foods fortified with Vitamin D are also processed which can lead them to have a lot of unnecessary and not necessarily healthy ingredients. Be sure to check the label to see if the product is fortified. 

Some foods that are fortified with Vitamin D include orange juice, plant-based milks, and cereals

Recipe Recommendation:

Try making a smoothie with some almond milk fortified with Vitamin D.  Here’s a vibrant Vegan Green Smoothie that packs in those necessary green veggies too. 

Orange juice fortified with vitamin d

Supplements

Another other option to get your daily Vitamin D is to take a supplement. As a person who follows a plant-based lifestyle, I take Vitamin D supplements daily. If you are vegan, check to see that your Vitamin D supplement is actually vegan-friendly. Many sources of D3 are animal sources and therefore a no-go for you. There are specific vegan D3 supplements. In order to fully absorb the vitamin D in your supplement, take it with a high-fat meal. (5)

Recipe Recommendation: 

Try taking your supplement alongside a scoop of Vegan Chocolate Avocado Pudding.

Non-Vegan Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D2 comes from plant sources, while D3 comes from mostly animal sources. Since D3 is the kind produced in your skin, it’s easiest for your body to use, but that doesn’t mean D2 doesn’t help you. It just means that your body has to do some extra work. 

Non-Vegan Sources

  • Cod liver oil
  • Salmon
  • Swordfish
  • Tuna fish
  • Sardines
  • Beef liver
  • Egg yolk 

If you don’t follow a plant-based diet, be sure to include some of these foods in your meals to increase your Vitamin D levels. All of these foods have D3 which is the easiest for your body to process. (6) 

 

Egg
Let’s recap. The best way to get your Vitamin D is to spend time outdoors. We can all try to spend more time outside under the bright sun. It always improves my mood to take a step outside and take a deep breath. Why not take a walk in the melting snow? I know this isn’t always possible though, and the winter months make it especially hard to make it outside. Ways to get your necessary Vitamin D from the comfort of your own home, maybe snuggled up in front of the warm fireplace include mushrooms, supplements, fortified foods and fatty fish. That’s not too bad. It’s perfectly doable actually and can benefit us all in the long run. Let’s all commit to adding more Vitamin D into our lives. 

If you’re interested in learning more about mushrooms, be sure to check out our post on the wonders of mushrooms and the magic of the fungi kingdom

If you’re interested in boosting your brain power during exhausting days working from home, be sure to check out our post on the best brain foods to fuel your work from home day and learn about how blueberries can add lots of power to your life. 

We wish you wellness and joy and hope Vitamin D can help you power through your tough days and celebrate the good ones.

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