Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is created by our cells when our skin is exposed to sunlight. And with just the face and arms exposed, our skin only needs about fifteen minutes of direct sunlight every day to absorb the proper amount of vitamin D. But during the winter months, even that can be a nearly impossible feat to accomplish. Not only do people spend less time outside, and cover up more when they do go out, but if you live far enough above the equator, you cannot absorb enough sunlight during the winter months no matter how much time you spend outdoors.

Researchers estimate that around 75% of people in the U.S. are vitamin D deficient. Although sunlight is the best source, you can also absorb this vitamin from fortified foods and supplements. Don’t let the winter blues get you down this season — make sure you are getting an adequate amount of vitamin D.

Why You Need It

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium, optimizing bone health and aiding in the prevention of osteoporosis. Without this essential chemical, bones can become brittle, thin, or misshapen. Vitamin D assists in many functions of the body, helping with the immune system, muscle function, cardiovascular health, respiratory health, and brain development. There is also growing evidence that it may help prevent certain types of cancer.

If you are feeling those “winter blues” during this time of year, don’t simply brush that feeling off. You may want to talk to your doctor and look into getting more vitamin D. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), a disorder that causes depression during the winter months, is more prevalent in people with vitamin D deficiencies.

Where You Can Get It

In the absence of natural sunlight, you can turn to food to get your Vitamin D fix. Fatty fish, like salmon, swordfish and canned tuna fish are great natural sources of Vitamin D. Foods fortified with extra vitamins and minerals can also be a great addition to your diet, such as fortified breakfast cereals. Liquid forms of vitamins are even easier for your body to absorb, so drinking fortified cow’s milk, soy milk, or almond milk every day is a wonderful way to supplement your diet.

Though not as easy to absorb as natural sources, pill supplements that include vitamin D could help you get an adequate amount of the “sunshine vitamin” each day. Overall, it is a good personal policy to take a daily multivitamin all year long, but in the winter it can give you that extra boost that you need to feel better in your day-to-day life.

UV-emitting lamps are popular tools to reduce SAD and to boost vitamin D intake. These lamps are often used in light therapy, but carry the same risk for skin cancer as the sun, so talk to your doctor about getting a recommendation or finding a facility with a light therapy lamp.

The holidays are over and the beautiful white snow has turned into a sad pile of slush, complicating every step of your morning jog. This dreary time of year complicates a lot of aspects of your life — don’t let it complicate your health. Luckily spring is just around the corner, but no matter the season, always be sure to get adequate amounts of vitamin D every day.