Respect the Gray Squirrel and be Healthier this Winter!


If you’re looking to stay healthier THIS WINTER, and wonder why your FLU SHOT DIDN’T WORK LAST WINTER, you might not want to look any further than the Eastern Gray Squirrel  for a role model!

Busy in fall gathering and building food caches for the winter months, humans who similarly scurry now for some sunlight now can in fact build sufficient stores to outlast a long, dark Minnesota winter!

For while much has been written about the significance of Vitamin D for good health, The New York Times recently stated that humans can store up A FULL YEAR’S SUPPLY  of Vitamin D with daily doses of just 5 to 10 minutes of direct sunlight during the summer months.  Summer’s gone now, that’s true, but it isn’t too late to roll up the sleeves and pant legs on sunnier fall days to build up your Vitamin D stores … especially if you’ve shunned the sun all summer long.

Exercise is, of course helpful in fighting off infections and preventing many diseases,  but your next best bet could be as simple as getting enough Vitamin D.   Especially in northern climates where exposure to the sun, our primary source of vitamin D, is limited during the Fall and Winter, increasing attention is now being given to vitamin D requirements. And vitamin D deficiencies.

In fact, some physicians contend that a major portion of winter ailments can be attributed to Vitamin D deficiencies, including heart disease, chronic pain, Fibromyalgia, hypertension, arthritis, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, PMS, CrohnsDisease, cancer, MS and other autoimmune diseases. Wow!

A Minneapolis client of ours has seen Vitamin D deficiencies in action 1st hand. Working through lower back pain for several months, she’d gone through physical therapy, chiropractic care, and had several MRIs and X Rays performed to help diagnose the source of her ailment. Nothing worked. Eventually, her physician suggested a diet loaded with Vitamin D, and her back pain went away!

The problem is, it’s really, really hard to compensate for the lack of sun.

Your body manufactures about 20,000 international units (IUs) of vitamin D with just 20 minutes of sun.  To get that much vitamin D in your diet would require something like 40 glasses of milk per day! (3300 calories, even if it’s skim milk). The good news is that Vitamin D is fat soluble, so your body is capable of storing D in your body fat. You won’t need to consume the entire amount that you would otherwise manufacture, but if you can’t get some sunshine, some dietary intake becomes critical.

In fact, to be keep your levels of Vitamin D sufficient,  an occasional trip to a tanning bed is probably the surest route!  This, of course, carries the added risk of developing skin cancer, so many of us avoid those.

As a Result, Natural Foods, become your next best source of vitamin D, and here are some high quality choices:

Salmon, canned (3 ounces) 530 IU
Salmon, cooked (3.5 ounces) 240–360 IU
Tuna, canned (3 ounces) 200 IU
Soy milk, fortified (8 ounces) 100 IU
Orange juice, fortified (8 ounces) 100 IU
Milk, low-fat, fortified (8 ounces) 98 IU
Cereal, fortified (1 cup) 40–50 IU
Eggs (1 large) 20–26 IU
Swiss cheese (1 ounce) 12 IU

The problem is, even a diet with only these foods you could still be deficient in D!   So we’re not done yet. How much, exactly, you need daily is still under debate, but a daily intake of up to 2,000 IU is currently considered a safe upper limit. The medical community agrees that up to this much won’t create other problems, even if they can’t agree on what the required minimum should be.

So, even with a naturally rich vitamin D diet, some supplementation is recommended. The best way to take vitamin D supplements is with Calcium. The two nutrients work together to build strong bones and teeth.

Furthermore, it’s been shown that taking vitamin D with Calcium can actually reduce your fatty food cravings and help you lose weight!

So, with the Sun getting further and further away for the next 3 months, be sure to Squirrel away some natural sun D when possible this fall!

And the next time you wonder if the little grey guy is actually going to make it to the curb in time, remember … some sun now could keep you healthier this winter!

Looking for even more useful nutrition tips? Ask me about our new Nutrition Together program!

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