Our tans have faded, our nights are long, and our days are spent bundled up from head to toe. Winter is here and it’s making us all SAD; sad that it’s too cold for a tank top and sad that we’re whiter than ghosts, but mostly SAD as in Seasonal Affective Disorder. It’s a real thing.
With shorter days and less time spent outside people all over the world suffer from a lack of vitamin D resulting in seasonal depression. Don’t let the sun’s benefits escape you this winter. Here’s the low down on making sure you stay vitamin D proficient this sunless season.
Why we need vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of those things we take for granted. Our bodies are made to extract vitamin D out of sunlight, so 15 minutes in the sun can get most of us our daily dose of vitamin D. Our bodies can also store vitamin D, sometimes helping people make it through gray periods when the sun is hiding.
It’s more difficult to find vitamin D-rich foods because our bodies are naturally made to get our dose of D from the sun (but don’t worry, it’s possible and we’ll cover it later on).
how our bodies use vitamin D
Vitamin D is used to help our bodies absorb calcium properly. Without the correct level of vitamin D our bodies would have trouble forming strong bones, teeth, and healthy hair, because we wouldn’t be able to process calcium efficiently.
Vitamin D is most commonly known as a key player in fighting SAD. It regulates the serotonin levels in the brain, helping improve our mood and combat depression.
Signs you may be vitamin d deficient
There are many warning signs you may be deficient in vitamin D. Because a vitamin D deficiency results in a calcium deficiency the warning signs are easily confused with other vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
If you experience any of these symptoms at the same time, you may want to head to your doctor to check your vitamin levels with a simple test.
- Fatigue or excessive tiredness even with plenty of sleep and a healthy diet
- Hair loss (more than the usual wad of hair you find in your drain after a shower)
- Impaired wound healing, meaning that scrap you got a few weeks ago should be almost all healed up by now… but it’s not. This also refers to internal wounds like bruises and broken bones. After two weeks, if your bruise is still the shade of the red wine you were drinking when you got it, you should get it checked out by a medical professional.
- Muscle, bone, or back pain, in severe cases a lack of vitamin D can lead to osteomalacia which is a treatable bone disease
- Depression, like I mentioned before vitamin D plays a role in controlling your serotonin levels in your brain. The more vitamin D the higher the levels.
Easy ways to get enough vitamin D
Even though our bodies are naturally wired to get our vitamin D from the sun, we can supplement a vitamin D rich diet for sun time.
seafood sources of vitamin D
For those of you with no dietary restrictions the food with the highest amounts of vitamin D is fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, and mackerel. A 4-ounce serving of salmon contains 265% of our recommended daily allowance.
Since our bodies have the ability to store vitamin D, you can get your recommended weekly allowance by eating two small, 4-ounce portions of salmon a week.
dairy sources of vitamin D
Another supplemental way to receive your vitamin D is through dairy products. You will need to consume more of this since it is lower in vitamin D. Eggs (the yolk in particular) are high in vitamin D.
If you drink 3 cups of milk that has been vitamin D fortified every day during the winter you will receive the proper amount of vitamin D. This method works for our vegetarian and vegan friends as well, since any milk will do (cow, goat, soy, almond, or coconut).
vegetarian and vegan options for vitamin D
Other vegetarian and vegan options to get your vitamin D are nuts high in fat, like almonds and cashews. Anyone can fully support their vitamin D needs through supplements and multivitamins as well.
As with any supplements you want to make sure you’re not exceeding the recommended dosage and checking with your doctor before you start taking them. It is recommended that you get about 400 IU per day, but for those who are already deficient a higher dosage may be required.
a little less sad
While we may be sad this winter season about our lack of tan lines, we can avoid being SAD by making sure our diets are packed with vitamin D-rich foods and finding a supplement that works for us.