D Pressed

by Dr. Keith Ayoob


The holidays are over, those New Year’s resolutions you made turned out to be a bit lofty, the weather is cold and gloomy, and if you live north of about the Mason-Dixon line, you probably get little or no sun. Good old “SAD” – seasonal depressive disorder. So why am I mentioning it? Because SAD or just regular depression, or even the blahs can be a set-up for being a bit depressed and heading to the fridge for some comfort food.   

Help is close by 

Vitamin D may actually help. Vitamin D has been shown to help with some symptoms of depression, and most people don’t get enough D. We are said to need about 400 international units (IU) per day but the Institutes of Medicine (IOM) recently recommended that most people get 600 IU  -- an increase of 50% over previous recommendations.   

The problem is that vitamin D is in very few foods, so it’s hard to get from our diets. That’s okay for people who spend time in the sun, since sun exposure helps our bodies make our own D. But for those who either avoid the sun, use sunscreen, or who spend winter north of the 40th parallel (many say north of the 35th), sun exposure is a dream. 

Fortunately, there are some common foods that supply vitamin D. Indeed, it’s another reason to keep up your intake of low-fat and fat-free milk. Fluid milk by law, must supply vitamin D, to the tune of 100 IU (25% of the RDA) in each glass. Some light yogurt brands also supply vitamin D, as do some fortified cereals, albeit to a lesser extent. Sardines and canned salmon with the bones in also have vitamin D (calcium, too). Of course, there’s also liver, but we really need foods we can eat daily and liver and sardines won’t work for most people. 


Now “D” surprise source 

You’ll notice that the above vitamin D sources bypassed the produce aisle. That’s because, as good as the produce section is for so many vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, it’s almost devoid of any source of vitamin D. 

Except one: mushrooms

No joke, all mushrooms have vitamin D on some level but now some stores are selling regular white button mushrooms and also portabellas that have been light-exposed and have lots of vitamin D – nearly 400 IU in a single serving. The labels will identify these mushrooms. A serving is about 3 ounces or about 4 or 5 buttons or one portabella.   

I love mushrooms for another reason: they really taste good, and that’s no accident of nature. Mushrooms actually have “umami.” That’s just a Japanese word for savoriness or good taste. Umami can help reduce the need for salt because it provides flavor all its own.   

Mushrooms are also a good source of selenium – an antioxidant mineral, and potassium. For weight-watching, they have almost no calories. By themselves, they’re a free food if there ever was one. Slice them into salads, add them to stir-fried anything, or add to soups, pastas and stews. They bulk up omelets, too, and all for no added calories.   


For a REALLY easy way to get some tasty vitamin D and minerals:

  • Remove the stems from some as many portabellas as you need
  • Brush with a little olive oil or spray with cooking spray
  • Grill until tender for 5 or 6 minutes, depending on thickness, or bake at 500 for 7-8 minutes
  • Sprinkle the lot with 1 or 2 teaspoons of grated parmesan. 


And next time you see your doctor, ask about having your blood levels of D taken. You may be very surprised. You don’t have to have rickets to have low levels of vitamin D in your blood. Check it out.   

And if you think you have serious depression or symptoms that won’t go away, by all means see your doctor and don’t wait until spring.