If you’ve ever struggled with Seasonal Affective Disorder (a.k.a. SAD), you’re probably dreading the colder days and longer nights ahead. When winter rolls around, many people deal with symptoms similar to depression, like low energy, feelings of persistent sadness or emotional numbness even in the midst of holiday festivities, lack of appetite, trouble sleeping, and loss of interest in activities and hobbies they usually enjoy.
What causes SAD? Researchers aren’t certain, and there are probably a number of contributing factors. But low vitamin D could be one of the culprits. Getting enough vitamin D is crucial for our emotional wellbeing—it’s sometimes referred to as “the happy hormone.” Doctors recommend that everyone get between 1000 – 4000 IU, or 25 – 100 micrograms, each day. However, if your area doesn’t get much sunlight during the winter months, it can be downright impossible to get that from sunlight alone.
If you’re vegan, you might have to get a little creative when it comes to getting enough vitamin D during the winter months. That’s because there are very few whole plant foods that contain vitamin D. However, it’s definitely not impossible, and thankfully, there are plenty of easy fixes for this minor issue.
How to keep your spirits up with vegan sources of vitamin D
Supplementing with vitamin D in the winter is one of the easiest ways to keep your intake up and fight off those symptoms of SAD. Choose a vitamin D3 supplement that is specifically labeled as vegan—most vitamin D capsules that you’ll find on the shelves at your local pharmacy are not, but if you look carefully, you’ll find a vegan version. Taking a combined vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 supplement is a great combo, as vitamin D helps you absorb more calcium, while vitamin K will direct it specifically to your bones, which helps prevent osteoporosis in the long run.
Cook With Mushrooms
It’s true that plant foods with vitamin D are relatively rare, but if you like mushrooms, you’re in luck! Look for mushrooms specifically grown under UV light, which increases their vitamin D levels. Toss them into pasta, make portobello burgers, stir them into soups or stews, or bake them into a tasty veggie casserole. There are plenty of possibilities, so try some new recipes!
But what if you aren’t a huge fan of mushrooms? Do you have to entirely rely on supplements? Nope! Today, there are so many fortified vegan foods at your local grocery store with plenty of vitamin D.
For example, most plant milks contain vitamin D—just check the label to see how much you’ll get from one serving, and pour a cup into your morning smoothie. For additional vitamin D, you can also blend in a scoop of vegan protein powder. Many kinds of cereal and vegan yogurts have vitamin D, too. A glass of orange juice with breakfast can also help you get enough vitamin D—just check to make sure it doesn’t have high sugar content.
A light therapy lamp won’t necessarily increase your vitamin D levels, but it can definitely have a similar effect—and it’s especially helpful if you really miss the sunshine of the summer months! There are plenty of “light boxes” on the market – just choose one that suits your price range.
Using it is simple. Set it up at a comfortable spot in your house where you can sit for about a half-hour each morning, shortly after waking up. It provides about 10,000 lux (a measure of light intensity), which helps lift your mood and maintain a healthy circadian rhythm. Talk to your doctor before trying a light box—it can cause complications for people with certain medical conditions, so don’t run out and buy one without doing a little research.
Plan a Sunny Getaway
What’s the ultimate mood boost in the middle of winter? Going away to somewhere sunny for a few days of relaxation! With the holidays coming up, now is the perfect time to get ready to pack your bags. Spend a couple of days soaking up the sun on the beach, forget about the winter blues for a while, and come home feeling refreshed. It’s not a perfect solution, and it won’t cure your SAD symptoms long term, but sometimes, we all need a vacation. Bring your sunscreen, your favorite floppy hat, and treat yourself.
Also by Jane: Why Climate Change Is Making Algae Blooms Worse
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