The power of vitamin D
It’s almost summer and if you are like me, you’ll be very much looking forward to having your feet up and enjoying some of the sun's rays at the beach. Or pulling on some tramping boots and hitting the great walks with shorts on. The benefit of some warm sun and days outside, wherever you are, isn’t just that it feels good at the time, or even that you’re enjoying some well deserved R&R in 2020, it actually is boosting your levels of vitamin D which plays a blinder in helping keep you healthy and happy.
What is it good for?
Not only does it help keep your muscles strong, your teeth healthy and your bones from breaking, vitamin D is also a super power when it comes to maintaining your mental health. There are a number of studies which conclude that low levels of vitamin D occurs during the winter months, particularly when seasonal affective disorder (low mood and increased likelihood of depression) are on the increase. Other studies have found that low levels of vitamin D are also linked to high levels of anxiety. So, in essence, the vitamin has the potential to affect our wellbeing when we look at it from a mental health perspective. All it takes is maintaining a healthy level to protect ourselves from the possible low moods which are quite common in the winter.
What it is like elsewhere
Vitamin D deficiency is common in many parts of the World. Our friends in the Northern Hemisphere are particularly likely to experience this in their winter, with rates in the UK as high as 1 in 5 reporting very low levels. In Scotland, employers encourage staff to take a daily supplement to boost their levels of vitamin D and ensure the wellbeing through the darker, and colder months of the year. Some have even taken the preventative step of handing out free doses to last the winter season, both to improve the health of staff and as a step to reduce the number of sick days taken, as a result of seasonal affective disorder among others. As such, it demonstrates the intent from an employer to care for the workers and business, and just how important a healthy level of vitamin D is.
How to get your fix
So how do we get what our body needs each day? Some health experts recommend 30 minutes of sun exposure a day to ensure we get a daily dose of vitamin D. Naturally, here in New Zealand, our love of the outdoors and appreciation for getting out there in the summer means this is absolutely possible. However, we’ll want to twin that with a healthy layer of sunscreen, particularly in the summer months. However, there are other ways to get our fix. Lots of foods and drinks are rich in vitamin D: eggs, mushrooms, yoghurts, oily fish and even milk alternatives such as soy milk will give your levels a boost. And those are examples of foods which aren’t fortified with vitamin D - often you’ll find fruit juices and cows milk have it added in to help hit a good daily dose.
As we slide into the beginning of the sunny season, you can be sure that the enjoyment of summer will be high. And so will your vitamin D levels if you get out there and enjoy the best that New Zealand has to offer. All in the knowledge that you’ll be healthier and happier for it. Whoever said that the outdoors was the best medicine wasn’t far wrong!
There are lots of straightforward ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle and care for our wellbeing. Why not have a read of Kate Maxwell’s article on the importance of sleep? Looking after our resting routine is another way in which we can ensure we stay healthy this summer, and beyond.