BLOG: This weekend marked the end of daylight savings time and the beginning of long, dark nights. Believe it or not, this loss of sunlight plays a large role in our physical and mental health. Exposure to the sun is required by the body to produce necessary vitamin D, but as daylight diminishes we become increasingly more reliant on food to provide this nutrition.
While hard to find, Vitamin D is crucial to maintaining calcium levels and therefore, responsible for many functions involving the heart, lungs, brain and muscles. In fact, deficiencies have been linked to diseases from cancer to osteoporosis. Vitamin D is also responsible for maintaining mental health; explaining why issues such as depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are more common in colder, darker months.
In order to prevent deficiency in the upcoming months, it is important to consume a variety of Vitamin D-containing foods, including: fortified milk, breakfast cereals and orange juice, as well as eggs, fish and cheese. Because Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient, it should be consumed along with foods that contain both calcium and moderate amounts of fat.
For this reason low-fat fortified milk and dairy products, like those found in your local Stewart’s Shop, are some of the best sources of Vitamin D. And because Stewart’s milk is pasteurized at lower temperatures than other ultra-pasteurized products, it provides more calcium and Vitamin D per serving! Just one cup of Stewart’s low-fat milk provides approximately 30% of your daily Vitamin D recommendation along with 300mg of calcium and moderate amounts of fat, required for optimal use.
Although getting out of work after sunset makes Vitamin D a challenge, your neighborhood Stewart’s shop is prepared to help! Each store is stocked with fortified breakfast cereals to go along with Stewart’s milk for healthy start. You can also find eggs, fortified orange juice, cheese, canned tuna and other Vitamin D rich foods to keep physically and mentally healthy, no matter what the weather. And because many Stewart’s shops are so close, try walking to your neighborhood shop on the next sunny day. It’s great exercise and a chance for extra Vitamin D!
-Christine Sloat MS, RD, CDN
About Christine: Christine Sloat is a Registered Dietitian and life-long resident of upstate New York. She holds a Bachelor’s of Science in Dietetics from the University of Delaware, and a Master’s of Science in Applied Nutrition from The Sage Colleges in Troy. She has a nutrition consulting business, Nutritious Notions LLC.