Winter might only just be getting started, but if the dark days and chilly temperatures already have you feeling down, you might want to think about getting more vitamin D. Many people don't get the recommended 600 IU per day – and it could be killing your mood.
"Vitamin D may play a role in relieving mood disorders, particularly seasonal affective disorder, as it seems to play a role in increasing levels of the mood neurotransmitter serotonin," says culinary nutritionist Rachel Begun.
Here are five foods that can help you load up.
5 foods to fight SAD
There are already a million reasons to eat the pink fish, but here's one more. At 447 IU, a 85g serving of cooked salmon packs more than a day's worth of your daily vitamin D. If you're bored with the usual fillet, try flaking cooked salmon with a fork and tossing it with cooked whole grains and steamed veggies for a hearty winter salad.
2. Low-fat milk
It does your body and your mood good. Virtually all cow's milk is fortified with vitamin D and delivers around 100 IU per cup. But if you don't do dairy, don't worry. Many plant-based options - including almond milk, soy milk and coconut milk - contain added vitamin D, too, says Begun. Just check the label to be sure. Simmer it with whole grains like quinoa or buckwheat for a creamy breakfast porridge.
One large egg has around 40 IU of vitamin D – see? They really are incredible. But to reap the benefits, you have to eat the whole egg, since vitamin D is only found in the yolk. Try scrambling two eggs with whatever leftover cooked vegetables you have in the fridge, like sautéed greens or peppers. Roll it all up into a whole wheat tortilla, and you're good to go.
Mushrooms naturally contain small amounts of vitamin D, though the amount varies by type. Shiitake and Portobello, for instance, have a little more than white button mushrooms.
Fungi that are grown under UV light get an extra boost, but not all mushroom packages mention that on the label, so be sure to check. Add sliced mushrooms to your favourite stir-fry or pasta dish, or try roasting them whole with olive oil and fresh herbs.
5. Orange juice
Sure, freshly squeezed is usually better, but it's best to go with bottled if you're trying to get more vitamin D. Many packaged OJs are fortified with the vitamin, packing around a third of your daily needs per cup. Try adding it to a green smoothie for a hit of sweetness –the fibre from all the veggies will help slow your body's absorption of the juice's natural sugars.
Vitamin D is notoriously tough to get enough of-and sometimes, food alone won't cut it.
If you're still having trouble meeting your daily vitamin D needs or are dealing with a blue mood that won't go away, talk with your doctor. They can help you figure out whether you should take a supplement – or try other treatments for your SAD.
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