Get a Vitamin D Boost from Milk This Winter
There’s a great divide among Michiganders that has nothing to do with politics.
We’re talking about the division between those who are on Team I-Heart-Winter-And-Can’t-Wait-For-More-Snow and those who are on Team I-Hate-Winter-And-Can’t-Wait-To-Move-South-Someday. Regardless of where you stand, there are the some cold, hard truths to accept:
- It takes twice as long to get out the door when you have to layer up with coats, boots, hats, etc. (and even more time if you have little kids to bundle up)
- Potholes are inevitable come spring
- There will be days at a time without even a peek of the sun
This last point raises an issue you may not have thought about: Less exposure to the sun means our bodies make less vitamin D. So, winter is an especially important time to make sure you get 2-3 servings of milk and other dairy foods each day to help meet your vitamin D needs.
The Power of Sun
Let’s start with a little science lesson. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and is essential for healthy bones. People ages 1-70 need 600 International Units (IU) of vitamin D each day; those over 70 need 800 IU per day.
Vitamin D is unique because our bodies can make it from sunlight—specifically, ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. During the summer when Michigan is close to the sun, our bodies make vitamin D very efficiently. We only need about 10 minutes of UVB exposure during midday to make what we need.
However, in the winter when our part of the world is furthest away from the sun and we’re covered head to toe in layers of clothing, this process gets disrupted. While we do have stores of vitamin D in our liver and fat tissue to prevent an immediate drop in vitamin D, studies of people around the world show that vitamin D status peaks in the late summer and drops to the lowest in late winter.
The Dairy Advantage
So, how do you make sure you are getting enough vitamin D this time of year? Well, if you’re lucky, you can spend the winter in Florida. But for those of us who have to stay put, we need to make sure we’re getting enough vitamin D from food.
And that’s where milk and other dairy foods factor in. An 8-ounce glass of vitamin D-fortified reduced-fat milk provides about 120 IU of vitamin D. Drinking three servings of milk a day can meet more than half your needs for vitamin D.
Other food sources include fatty fish, such as salmon, egg yolks and other fortified foods, such as yogurt, juice and ready-to-eat cereals.
When you can’t catch any rays this winter, at least make sure you get your three servings of dairy a day!