The Surprising Way To Get Enough Vitamin D During Winter

Vital for immune function, hormone regulation, and mood stabilization, Vitamin D facilitates important processes throughout your entire body. But, according to Insider, nearly 77 percent of Americans don't get enough of this vitamin to function properly. Since one of the main sources of Vitamin D comes from the sun, wintertime poses a unique problem to meeting your daily intake.

As Insider explains, Vitamin D works like a steroid in the body, regulating the growth of over 200 genes. Dr. Frank Lipman explains to the news outlet, "Because Vitamin D is involved in supporting essential functions like immunity and cancer prevention, as well as neurological, cardiovascular, and bone health, it's easy to see just how dangerous falling short can be."

Just like humans, plants and animals need exposure to this vitamin to contain it as well, especially since there are two types. Vitamin D2 comes from plants and is deemed "less active" than its counterpart, D3. As Vitamin D3 comes from animal sources, it makes those following a plant-based diet even more at risk for deficiency. Beyond diet though, people should make an effort to get outside when possible during winter. Whenever the sun is out, the cheapest way to grab some Vitamin D is to step outside — even if you're bundled up.

Mushrooms are the holy grail of Vitamin D

It's also important to note that Vitamin D synthesis happens at different rates for different skin tones. In speaking to The New York Times, Dr. Bess Dawson-Hughes, director of the Bone Metabolism Lab at the USDA Nutrition Center at Tufts University, explained that for people with lighter skin tones, "Ten minutes a day of exposure to 10 percent of your body's surface area, such as your arms and face, will give you what you need." However, since Vitamin D synthesis decreases with age, that amount goes up as people get older. Furthermore, those with darker skin tones need between two and three times that amount for full absorption of the nutrient. 

Adding more obstacles to a person's Vitamin D pursuit, the times that the sun's rays are most potent are usually during working hours — from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Cooking Light reports. So, what can you do to get enough? Head to the produce aisle.

One of the only plant sources that contains bioavailable Vitamin D similar to animal products is the mushroom, which naturally absorbs the nutrient after sitting out in the sun. Apparently, as Cooking Light explains, eating mushrooms provides the same type of Vitamin D you would get from a pharmaceutical supplement. To reap these mood-boosting and bone-strengthening benefits, pick up a pack of morel or chanterelle mushrooms, which have the highest Vitamin D content since they're grown outside. This said, any kind of cap mushroom will give you the Vitamin D content you need.