Oh gloriously sunny days are getting shorter! Spending more time inside, means that it is time to stay focused on eating fresh and delicious fruits and veggies because we know that they don’t just make us feel better in the warmer months – they are essential to make our bodies work better, longer, from the inside out all winter long. And it’s thanks to Vitamins C+D.
To learn more we checked in with our friend and Naturopathic Doctor Shelby Entner.
Why do we feel lighter and more energetic in the spring and summer?
We can thank Vitamin D for that…it’s called the ‘sunshine vitamin’ for good reason. In the winter – because there’s less sunshine and fewer daylight hours, because we bundle up, and stay inside – we can feel blue and lethargic. That’s because we’re not getting enough Vitamin D. All those things get in the way of soaking in Vitamin D’s goodness. A professor of mine once said that unless we are living in a bikini at the equator, we are not getting enough!
So what does Vitamin D do for us, and what happens if we don’t get enough over time?
Our bodies need Vitamin D to absorb and regulate the calcium and phosphorus that create and maintain strong bones and teeth. Vitamin D also regulates insulin levels, supports our immune brain and nervous systems; our genes, muscles (including the heart) and lungs to function well. When we don’t get enough we compromise those functions and, research tells us, increase our risk of depression, heart disease and cancer. Adults can also develop osteoporosis, and children, rickets.
What’s the best way to make sure we get enough?
Because we live in a northern climate, and food doesn’t have the nutrition it did 100 years ago, it’s important to be mindful about getting enough. Natural sources like the sun, and eating Vitamin D-rich whole foods are your best bet.
Go outside for at least 15 minutes every day.
Expose as much of your skin as possible to direct sunlight. No sunscreen, sunblock or shade – even clouds and clothing prevent absorption of vitamin D. If you’re concerned about sun exposure, mid-to-late afternoon is best.
Eat Vitamin D-rich foods:
- Cold water fish (salmon, tuna), fish oil, liver, cheese and egg yolks
- Maitake and portabello mushrooms
- D-fortified foods like cow, soy and almond milk and cereals.
Can you take too much?
Vitamin D is fat soluble, which means it accumulates in your fat. If you take too much, your body can’t clear it easily, and calcium levels will be affected, which in turn impacts your heart and blood vessels, lungs and kidneys. You may experience headaches, muscle pain, a metallic taste in your mouth, nausea or vomiting, constipation or diarrhea.
What about supplements?
I highly recommend supplements because many of us just don’t eat properly. My preference is an easily absorbed liquid fish oil supplement, which is great for kids, too. Many come in flavours like lemon, raspberry and orange. Look for one that is ethically fished and screened for toxicity. I consider Vitamin one of my Top 3 essential supplements, along with B vitamins and Omega 3s.
How much you need depends on your age, weight, lifestyle, if you are pregnant, or taking certain medications, so it’s always good to check with a professional to make sure you are getting the right amount. Generally, kids need 1000 IUs a day and adults need 2000 IUs. Your family doctor can do a simple Vitamin D test, which costs about $60, and is worth every penny because too little, or too much, affects so much.
Let’s talk about Vitamin C. What does it do for us?
Vitamin C – or ascorbic acid – has so many benefits. It keeps our cells healthy – including collagen, the structural protein that keeps our tendons, ligaments and blood vessels, organs and skin together. It’s one of the best antioxidants to reduce the effect of free radicals. (No wonder it’s now used in topical anti-aging creams!)
Vitamin C also strengthens the cardiovascular and immune systems, helps to regulate blood sugar levels, and helps with the absorption of iron. It’s wise to eat Vitamin C and iron-rich foods – or take those two in supplement form, together.
And whole, fresh, organic sources are best, right?
Absolutely! Choose fruit and veggies with bright colours – like oranges, broccoli, peppers, dark leafy greens, blueberries, cantaloupe and red peppers.
How much do we need?
The minimum recommended daily allowance is 500-1000 IUs depending on your weight.
Is there such as thing as not enough and too much – and how would we know?
Because Vitamin C is water-soluble, the body can easily flush out what it doesn’t need, so having too much is usually not an issue. It could, however, irritate your stomach or give you diarrhea. But not getting enough can have far-reaching consequences:
- Cell degeneration – easy bruising, and difficulty healing and warding off infections
- Accelerated aging of your hair, skin and teeth – bleeding gums, dry skin, dull hair and nosebleeds.
- A compromised immune system – vulnerable to colds and flu, cataracts and macular degeneration, scurvy and cancer. Intravenous Vitamin C therapy is now used as a treatment for cancer and allergies.
If we don’t eat well enough what kind of supplements are best?
A buffered Vitamin C is better. Because ascorbic acid can be hard on the stomach, it is mixed – or buffered – with potassium, calcium and magnesium to make it easier to digest. Capsule, powdered or chewable form is fine.
Did You Know?
- Vitamin D deficiency is most common in infants, the elderly, dark-skinned people, or those who live at higher latitudes
- Up to 80% of hip fracture patients have a Vitamin D deficiency
- An SPF 30 sunscreen reduces Vitamin D synthesis by 95%
- Smoking lowers the ability to absorb Vitamin C
- A higher intake of fruits and veggies means you also get more phytonutrients, fiber and other vitamins and minerals
- Storage and cooking reduces the potency of any vitamin – eat fresh and raw for the full benefit.