Wellness Hub July 2016 Boost dark days with D Dr Suzanne Pearson July 30, 2016 Share Often overlooked and under-consumed, vitamin D is a powerhouse nutrient for your body. But in winter, when the sun is weak and the weather is cold, it can be tougher to find than Pokémon. Known as the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ vitamin D is an essential nutrient that forms in the skin when it’s exposed to the sun. UV levels vary depending on time of day, time of year, location, cloud cover and the environment, which means your levels can become depleted without enough rays. We’re pointing at you, tendency to hibernate. Classified as a vitamin (and hormone) it also has a starring role in bone health, helping your skeleton absorb the calcium and phosphorus it needs for development and strength. In fact, vitamin D influences calcium metabolism in almost every cell of the body, not just bone, so it’s equally important for muscle function, including the heart. On top of that long list of accolades, vitamin D contributes to business as usual for your immune system, helping you fight infections - good reason to get enough during sniffle season. Sunny disposition Then there’s the brighter mood benefits, with vitamin D receptors in the brain and body playing a vital role in your mental health and outlook on life. A recent study published in Psychiatry Research demonstrated a link between low levels of vitamin D and depression in healthy young women. This supports an earlier review and meta‑analysis of 14 studies with a total of 31,424 people that connected vitamin D levels and depression, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry. Natural sources Turns out, you can also look for stuff in the fridge. A few foods are naturally rich in vitamin D. Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, and fish liver oils are among the best sources. You’ll also find small amounts in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. That means saying no to egg white only omelettes. So what can you do to keep on top of your D levels during the dark days of winter? Treat yourself to some sunshine and D‑rich foods.