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The Importance of Vitamin D During the Winter Months

As the weather changes and winter approaches, the Winter Blues seems to become quite common among many adults. These months can be stressful and emotionally draining with all of the holidays. However, the main culprit is believed to be deficiency in vitamin D levels and intake. Because of the cold weather, there is little time spent in the sun, and any sunlight you may be exposed to, is not enough for vitamin D production.

A majority of the US population (90 percent of adults) are thought to be vitamin D deficient. This is especially true for those who live in northern regions of the world where less sun exposure is experienced. Besides its effect on mood, vitamin D deficiency has more serious consequences. Vitamin D deficiency is correlated with increased risks of developing certain cancers, autoimmune diseases, hypertension and various infectious diseases.

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin that is essential for our body to function properly. Our bodies make vitamin D by converting previtamin D (vitamin D2) into a usable form which is provitamin D (vitamin D3). Vitamin D becomes a hormone within our body, and is used for many important processes. Its main purpose is to help manufacture bones, but it also plays a vital role in blood pressure, blood sugar regulation, immunity, mood, brain function like memory, concentration, and protects against the development of certain cancers.

Forms of Vitamin D

There are two types of vitamin D, vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 is found in certain plants, while vitamin D3 comes from animal sources. The body prefers vitamin D3, as it is able to use this source more effectively, and it is more bioavailable and beneficial.

Many people believe that the best way to get enough vitamin D is through drinking milk, and other fortified foods. However, unfortunately most vitamin D fortified foods and dietary supplements contain vitamin D2, which is not absorbed or converted by the body into the active form it needs.

Although direct sun exposure is the best way to absorb vitamin D, it is not always possible, especially during the winter months in northern latitudes. Fortunately there are some other great food sources that you can incorporate into your diet to make sure you are getting adequate amounts of vitamin D.

Top Food Sources of Vitamin D

Halibut

Carp Fish

Mackerel

Eel

Salmon

Whitefish

Swordfish

Rainbow Trout

Cod Liver Oil

Sardines

Tuna

Eggs

Portabella Mushrooms (Exposed to UV Light Exposure)

Maitake Mushrooms(Exposed to UV Light Exposure)

By incorporating Vitamin D sources into your diet, you can help improve your mood during the winter blues, while building strong bones, enhancing your immune system, and also knowing that you are helping to prevent certain diseases.

Helaine Schonfeld
Helaine Schonfeld, Nutritionist, MSc., CLC

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