As temperatures creep lower and we continue to lean fully into cozy season—stocking up on scarves and sweaters, sipping hot apple cider, baking every pumpkin spice recipe we can get our hands on—there’s a strong likelihood that we’re all about to be spending a significant amount of extra time indoors compared to summertime. We’re all in favor of embracing the Nordic lifestyle trend known as friluftsliv, which means spending as much time outside in the fresh air as possible despite the weather conditions, but let’s be honest: winter is long, cold, and very much lacking the amount of sunshine we soaked up all summer long.
Case in point? You’re right to wonder whether your body is getting a sufficient amount of vitamin D. "With many practicing social distancing, we are collectively spending more time indoors; this limited exposure to sunlight may also lead to lower levels of active vitamin D," explains Mike Roizen, MD, chief wellness officer at Cleveland Clinic and author of What to Eat When. “Vitamin D contributes to a healthy immune system, and it’s important to find ways to support your immunity during this time."
What else does vitamin D do in the body? “Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s needed to maintain healthy bones," says nutrition expert Rachel Berman, RD, general manager of Verywell. "Its primary function is to absorb calcium and phosphorus during digestion. Calcium is the mineral needed to support bone health and proper nerve and muscle function.”
If you’re curious about vitamin D deficiency, symptoms to look out for, and what you should know before you take a vitamin D supplement, check out our full guide to vitamin D here.
While sunlight is the most commonly thought of source of active vitamin D, your diet is also an excellent way to up your vitamin D levels, especially when indoor time is at an all-time high. “Vitamin D is called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ since it’s formed in the body when your skin is exposed to UV rays—it is also found in supplements and naturally in certain foods,” Berman says. “Experts recommend getting about 600 IUs of vitamin D in our diet.” Here, the five best vitamin D-rich foods you should be eating in every season, according to Berman.
Fatty fish—including salmon, tuna, and sardines—are strong sources of vitamin D. “I like adding herbs and spices to salmon and baking to eat as a main dish or flaked with some breadcrumbs, egg, and chopped veggies to form a salmon burger patty,” says Berman.
Maitake mushrooms—or hen of the woods mushrooms—are another good source of vitamin D. They are great chopped up in a salad or sautéed in olive oil as a side dish.
Eggs and Cheese
According to Berman, egg yolks and cheese both provide smaller amounts of vitamin D, which you can include together in an omelet or frittata.
Some common foods are also fortified with vitamin D to help us get enough in our diet—think cereals, plant-based milk, and yogurt.