When the chilly weather sets in, many of us head inside, potentially robbing ourselves of the crucial nutrient that sunlight provides — Vitamin D. Even for winter workout enthusiasts, the sun’s lower trajectory in most regions of North America translates into less of that vital “Big D” entering your system.

cycling-in-sunVitamin D deficiency can result in a range of health issues, including brittle bones, increased blood pressure, and lowered immunity from disease. In order to verify with your doctor your best personal options to make up for the wintertime loss of sun, it’s helpful to first have your current blood levels tested.

Fortify Yourself

Diet alone may not be enough to get you the extra Vitamin D you need, but it’s a good place to start. Look for fortified versions of the foods you already like. Orange juice, milk, cereal and breads are often available with added Vitamin D. And make sure to add fatty fish like trout, salmon, whole tuna and tuna fish to your diet. If cholesterol isn’t an issue in your health plan, you can also get the nutrient from beef liver and from egg yolks.

Vitamin pills

Not surprisingly, a vitamin supplement can be the key to bridging the gap when you can’t be outdoors or get Vitamin D from other sources. In general, adults need an average of 600 IUs of Vitamin D per day — but a light-therapypre-existing deficiency might mean that you need more. Too much D, however, is toxic. For that reason, talking to your doctor before taking a supplement is best.

Light Therapy

Special ultraviolet bulbs and light boxes may help boost your Vitamin D levels in the same way sunlight does. But follow the manufacturer’s recommendation for usage instructions, as well as for whether you need skin and eye protection while the light is on.