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where to get your fix of vitamin d

The winter months are tough for most people.

It’s cold.

We are less active.

The days are shorter.

Fresh food is not as plentiful.

It’s harder to get around with all that rain or snow.

And that’s just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. A key factor in eliminating your depression and keeping the winter blues under control is your diet. Not only reducing the intake of junk food, but maintaining a healthy balance of exercise, nutrition and vitamins is the best way to start.

As a follow up to last week, where I shared an article on beating the winter blues with high dose vitamin d therapy, I’d like to take the time to share with you some thoughts on how to get your daily intake.

Vitamin D is an excellent “tool” to combat seasonal affective disorder and other forms of depression. Partly, because one of the main sources is from sunlight which is in short supply during the winter. It also promotes:

  • calcium absorption to help your bones
  • encourages cell growth
  • boosts your immune system
  • reduces inflammation

Unfortunately, there are very few natural food sources with vitamin D but many foods are fortified with it and supplements are available too.

There are many ways to get a dose of vitamin D during the winter.

  1. get outside – by far this is the best medicine. Just a few minutes (5-15) every day will not pose a UV risk and even under cloud cover will give you a decent dose well above daily requirements.
  2. light therapy – if you can’t get outside I’ve enjoyed great success with light therapy for depression.
  3. fish & seafood – you’ve heard it before. While not everybody is a fan (fortunately I love it), it’s a great source of a seemingly endless list of health benefits. Try to find a few things you enjoy and integrate them into your diet at least a couple times a week (cod liver oil, salmon, flaked light tuna, sole, flounder, swordfish, sardines, trout, mackerel are all excellent sources). There are other health and environmental concerns when consuming from our oceans. Take a look at the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, considered a leading authority on ocean sustainability and protection
  4. fortified foods – milk, yogurt, orange juice, kefir, cottage cheese, goat’s milk, ricotta cheese to name a few
  5. beef liver – for those non vegetarians, beef liver can really give you a pick me up and provide iron and other minerals too.
  6. eggs – the yolks are a strong source
  7. mushrooms (especially shitake) – an interesting note is mushrooms exposed to sunlight are one of the best sources
  8. supplements – I’m not a fan of vitamins and supplements, since your body uses these differently than a natural alternative. In moderation, or for seasonal use they can certainly increase your dose of any need vitamin, mineral or nutritional need. Always look for a natural alternative first.

how much do you need

Most sources put acceptable levels in a range of 1000 to 4000 (IU) international units daily for adults under 70 years of age. An increase above 4000 (IU) for those with depression type disorders or over 70 is generally acceptable. This should be controlled and perhaps limited to the winter months. A doctor should be consulted to confirm or discuss any risks.

To give you an idea of how much vitamin D the sun gives you – if you spend about 1 hour in the sun (which is a UV risk factor) you will get 10,000 to 20,000 (IU), so less than 15 minutes will give you your daily dose although that was with more skin exposure than winter might allow.

Getting outside for that sun has the benefit of cheering you up a bit. It gets your cardio going with an increase of oxygen to your brain and body. It also helps you interact and have a visit with nature. All things that can boost your “mental system” when it needs a pick me up.

The winter can be quite an obstacle for some people to cope with but with the right changes to your nutritional habits and a conscious effort to moderate or increase your vitamin D intake you can make the journey comfortable and enjoy the other things winter and life has to offer.


Katherine Harmon, Recommended Daily Vitamin D Intake Gets a Boost, Scientific American, http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=recommended-daily-vitamin (November 30, 2010)

Vitamin D, Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vitamin-d/NS_patient-vitamind/DSECTION=dosing

Michael F. Holick, Vitamin D and Health in the 21st Century: Bone and Beyond, Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, http://www.ajcn.org/content/80/6/1678S.long


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