Does anyone remember that commercial where a woman is sitting at her desk working and she looks at her clock and it reads 4:35pm, she than looks outside and it’s dark, and she bursts into tears? It’s one of my favourite commercials because I think all of us Canadians can relate to her in the winter. If we leave for work before 7am, and go home at 5pm, some of us might not see sunlight for days! Not only is this slightly depressing, but this means we’re not getting our daily requirement of vitamin D. Getting enough D is important year-round, but especially during the winter months because of our decreased exposure to sunlight (when exposed to sunlight our skin creates Vitamin D).
Vitamin D is important because its primary function is around calcium metabolism. It allows the calcium that we get from food and supplements to be absorbed and used properly in our bodies. This is important because our bones are made primarily of calcium and phosphorus. Without vitamin D, the calcium & phosphorus levels in our blood decrease and these minerals end up getting pulled from our bones. Without vitamin D our bones become weak and over the long-term can cause serious diseases such as osteoporosis. This is why a calcium-magnesium supplement is often taken with vitamin D; to optimize its absorption.
During the spring & summer months (when exposed to sunlight), our bodies produce vitamin D, but too much sun exposure causes a host of other problems, which is why it’s best to get your D from food and supplements year-round. The best food sources of vitamin D are egg yolks, butter and oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring & sardines.
When it comes to vitamin D supplements it depends on the individual and time of year. During the winter months I would recommend a minimum of 1000 IU per day. I recently made a visit to Gingko (a supplement store in Toronto), and they recommend vitamin D drops. Specifically, a brand called AOR or D-Mulsion. They are 2000 IU and one bottle contains about 57 drops, which you just drop onto your tongue once or twice a day. It’s $27.99, but it’s a high quality product. Jamieson is also a good quality supplement brand, which is a little cheaper and available at most pharmacies.