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Battling the winter blues

File photo courtesy: A. Patterson/sxc.hu

File photo courtesy: A. Patterson/sxc.hu

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    Digital writers

    Monday, December 30, 2013, 2:37 PM -

    The cold and dark days of winter can definitely make some folks feel down, and not all of the contributing factors are weather-related.

    Experts say the holiday season is often a big culprit. After we come down from that shopping high, there are often big bills to pay and that can lead to seasonal stress.

    Overwhelming obligations to friends and family are often draining. Learn to just say no sometimes -- and if you can't avoid a stressful relative, Harvard Medical School research shows that taking a deep breath before chatting with the dreaded aunt, uncle, or cousin decreases tension.

    Poor eating habits can also affect your mood, and that includes skipping meals and over-indulging in sugary snacks or alcohol. Try adding extra fruits and veggies into your diet.

    Canadians not getting enough vitamin D

    A Statistics Canada survey from 2010 suggests that 10 per cent of Canadians have inadequate concentrations of vitamin D, which can contribute to seasonal affective disorder, or SAD.

    According to the Vitamin D Society, a deficiency can increase the risk for a series of complications relating to bone health, autoimmunity and the cardiovascular system.

    Winter is the darkest - and coldest - time of the year -- making it difficult for Canadians to get enough vitamin D, which is typically derived from the sun.

    Vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium, leading to healthy bones.

    Dr. Jane Goehner, a naturopathic doctor in Oakville, Ontario, says sunshine alone may not be enough to top up vitamin D levels during the cooler months.

    "You actually need your full arms and legs to be exposed for thirty minutes a day, at least three times a week, between March and October to get adequate vitamin D levels from the sun," she explains.

    The amount of vitamin D a person requires varies depending on gender, age and lifestyle -- but there are a few things Canadians can do to avoid a deficiency.

    Fatty fish, like salmon, are rich in the vitamin, along with eggs, milk and meat. Canadians require more vitamin D during the winter and a good supplement can make a world of difference.

    Regardless of the season, consider sunscreen if you will be in direct sunlight for a prolonged period of time. Over-exposure to UVA and UVB rays can negate the benefits of sunlight by increasing the risk of skin cancer and promote premature aging.

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