In this article we will discuss the importance of vitamin D intake through proper nutrition and the beneficial effects on mental health. Vitamin D is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in the United States. Affecting “more than one billion children and adults worldwide” as a result of inadequate sun exposure, dietary intake and in some cases poor vitamin D absorption. (Holick, 2017).

Where Can I find Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is found in various food sources such as fortified foods, or foods that have nutrients added to enhance overall nutritional quality. Some examples include:

  • Cereals
  • Cows Milk
  • Yogurt
  • Orange Juice
  • Fatty Fish
  • Eggs

One of the most common ways of obtaining vitamin D is though sunlight exposure, accounting for roughly 90% of ones vitamin D requirements! Contrary to popular belief, individuals of all skin pigmentation still need to wear sunscreen to protect themselves from the harmful Ultraviolet lights that come from the sun.

What may be making me deficient?

Some inhibiting factors include:

  • Lifestyles with limited exposure to the outdoors
  • Poor nutrition
  • Certain Medications can hinder absorption
  • Darker skin pigmentation makes it more difficult to absorb the benefits from the sun.
  • People who are overweight have an increased likelihood of deficiency
  • Excessive alcohol and tobacco intake

These same lifestyle factors have shown to have negative effects on mental health. In the brain, the neurotransmitters Dopamine and Serotonin (the feel good and happiness hormones) work with vitamin D to regulate mood and brain function.

Low levels have shown associations with Depression, Schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s, Fibromyalgia, Secondary-hyperparathyroidism, and SAD. Seasonal Affective Disorder or “SAD” for example, is a common mood disorder, related to decreased sunlight exposure, in the fall and winter months. This is especially common in people living in colder regions of the United States. (Greenblatt, 2011.)

What can YOU do?

Vitamin D has not only proven to have a beneficial role in regards to our mental health, but our physical health too. Vitamin D aids in the formation and maintenance of bone, teeth and muscular function.

  • Consume foods rich in Vitamin D
  • Sunlight exposure With sunscreen
  • Oral supplementation
  • Maintaining a healthy weight and exercise regimen, support proper vitamin D levels which can lead to improved mood