We all know it’s important to exercise regularly, get enough sleep and eat your fruits and veggies, but what else can you do to maintain a healthy lifestyle? One recommendation is getting your daily dosage of vitamin D.

What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” since the best way to get your fix is through the sun’s rays.

Vitamin D has several benefits, the biggest being it helps our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorus. In other words, it helps build and maintain strong bones. Vitamin D also helps strengthen the immune system and improve its resistance to illness and disease. It can improve muscle function, too.

Low levels of vitamin D can have drastic health consequences, including osteoporosis, cancer and muscle weakness. Experts say you’re at higher risk of low levels if you avoid the sun, have darker skin, are pregnant or elderly or have medical conditions like obesity and liver disease.

Some studies say vitamin D can affect your mental health, although there is conflicting research. According to some recent studies, vitamin D can improve your mood and decrease symptoms of depression. This could be one of the reasons people are affected by seasonal affective disorder (SAD) in the fall and winter when temperatures drop, and there’s less sunlight. People aren’t getting their recommended amount of vitamin D.

Getting your vitamin D dosage in the winter
As Canadians, we know we don’t have ample sunlight throughout the year⁠—and even if we did, our skin is covered to protect us from the cold for more than half the year. Soaking up the sun is the best option, but there are other ways to get vitamin D.

To get your fix of vitamin D in the not-so-sunny months, try supplementing. You can purchase vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) pills or cod liver oil, or get the nutrients from multivitamins. But remember multivitamins can vary, so check the label to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D. If you are considering supplementing, be sure to consult with your doctor first.

Another way to boost your vitamin D levels is by eating vitamin D rich foods. Try salmon, canned tuna, vitamin D-fortified milk and egg yolks.

Practising sun safety
Before you go rushing to book a tropical vacation, or heading down south to get your fix, make sure you educate yourself on the dangers of the sun, not just its benefits. Too much sunlight can cause sunburns, eye damage, heat stroke and skin cancer. Enjoy the sun in moderation, hydrate with water, and know your limits.