As winter endures, the sunshine seems to fade away by the day, leaving us feeling sluggish and lethargic. The cold months are notorious for infecting people with the “winter blues”. We feel unmotivated, inattentive and drowsy. The lack of sunlight during these months makes us prone to vitamin D deficiency, causing depression like symptoms. According to Psychology Today, the lower the vitamin D level, the greater the chance of depression. Sunshine boosts the brain’s endorphins, which is why Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), or the winter blues, is considered a prominent and seasonal mood disorder.
Beating wintertime depression can be challenging. People experiencing depression usually favor unhealthy products, like sweets and salt, to make them feel less depressed. They also tend to overeat, resulting in weight gain and lowered self-esteem. These patterns worsen depression and health status. It is key for those who are seasonally depressed to incorporate more vitamin D into their diets to help keep feeling optimistic during the absence of sunlight.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is not found naturally in many foods. When consumed with calcium, vitamin D helps protects bones. Most people associate vitamin D with bone health and growth, but many do not understand its affect on your brain function. Certain chemicals in your brain, like serotonin, are boosted with increased vitamin D intake. This is why maintaining an appropriate amount of vitamin D is essential to ward off depression. While it is evident that the sun’s UVB rays produce vitamin D naturally, there are sufficient amounts of vitamin D in some food sources as well.
If you are feeling blue, start your day off with eggs. Just one cup of hard boiled eggs will give you 118IU’s, compared to the daily recommendation of 600IU. Another great source of vitamin D is fish. Oily fish can provide as much as 500IU per filet. Mushrooms clock in at about 400IU per cup. Tofu, dairy products, pork and dairy alternatives, such as soy, are also great sources to reduce your vitamin D deficiency.
Incorporating some of these sources in your diet, especially during the winter months, will reduce your levels of depression. Depression is a serious disorder and can affect not only you, but your family and friends as well. The wintertime is filled with holidays, family events and cheer; don’t let vitamin D deficiency put you into a rut! Add healthy vitamin D sources to your diet and make sure to get up and get moving each day! Live healthy, be healthy and don’t forget to smile.