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4 Ways to boost your vitamin D levels and beat the winter blues

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Sneak more of this into your day with these yummy foods and easy daily goals.

Even in Southern California, where I live, I’ve felt a fair mount of those wintertime blues. But if you live in a cold weather or just cloudy state, you’ve probably experienced that more than I have. And unless you somehow possess a fantastical Mary Poppins-like demeanor, dark, damp, dreary days will affect us all at one point or another. Personally, on gray days, I feel slower and have a shorter fuse with my kiddos and husband. And my grumpy mood is only heightened by my busy schedule and long to-do list, which are probably just as hectic as usual, but feel less manageable because, well, I have the blues.

But, luckily for people like me, these mood swings are pretty preventable because they’re likely being caused by a vitamin D deficiency. Studies have linked gray, gloomy days to moodiness because of lack of sun exposure and a drop in serotonin levels. Serotonin is really important, of course, because it’s the neurotransmitter in our bodies responsible for keeping our mood balanced, which helps us generate those bright and happy feelings … and we could all afford to have more genuine happiness in our lives, couldn’t we?

Woman Sitting
Myles Tan | Unsplash

Vitamin D can easily be obtained from direct sunlight for 20 minutes a day. We’ve always been told that we need plenty of D to support bone health because in order to properly absorb calcium, an adequate amount of vitamin D needs to be present. You can see the slippery downhill slope, right? It’s equally as important in producing serotonin, which is our “happy hormone.”

Here are some recommendations for increasing the vitamin D levels in your body …

1. Schedule 20 minutes of direct sunlight a day

I’m talking about a full 20-minute block of sun per day, not just 5 minutes here and there. But, oddly, even in the sunny state where I live, 20 straight minutes of sunshine is hard to do. (Because when does a busy woman like you have 20 minutes to do anything extra during the workweek?) So don’t just read this tip and figure you’ll find a time to work it in: Schedule your sunshine in. Decide to wake up 20 minutes earlier that you normally do, and go for a walk or run. Or decide to eat your lunch outdoors today, or take your kids to the park for 20 minutes after school.

One more thing to note: When I say direct sunlight, I mean no long clothes, hats or even sunscreen for 20 minutes straight. You need that sunlight truly on your skin to soak up that delightful vitamin D. (Check with your health care provider if you have a medical condition that requires avoiding UV exposure.)

2. Increase your fatty fish intake

Salmon, tuna and sardines all have high amounts of vitamin D present. So if you’re feeling low, try making an open-face salmon sandwich for lunch with a little lime juice for a kick of zest, and red onions and radish slices to add a little crunch. It’s healthy, delicious, and even the colors will brighten up your day. For your little ones’ lunch boxes, you can’t go wrong with a classic tuna sandwich. But don’t rely solely on this solution; You’ll still need to combine vitamin D rich foods with the other suggestions on this list.

3. Add fortified foods to your diet

Milk, orange juice, and yogurt may all be fortified with D vitamins, so make sure to include one (or all three!) with your breakfast. Though, of the four suggestions here, this may be the smallest way to help boost your vitamin D levels because these grocery items are often fortified by adding nutrients in separately that weren’t present in the food to begin with. Nutrients and phytochemicals work best when they’re synthesized with the necessary vitamins and minerals that they’re supposed to be with in nature. So, yes, drink that OJ, but remember that you’re not going to get all the vitamin D you need in just that juice glass.

Brunch
Brooke Lark | Unsplash

4. Don’t be afraid of supplementing

If you’re not a vitamin person, it’s time you became one because adding a vitamin D3 to a healthy diet will probably have the most effect on your mood. I take one almost every day during the winter months and always feel much better, and, in my experience, most people after the age of 35 need this supplement permanently anyway. But it’s always a good idea to talk to your health care provider about what is the correct amount for you, as well as which supplement brand you should take. This is even more important if you live in a place where you don’t get a lot of sunshine in the winter.

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