It's a well-documented, but disappointing, truth about the holidays: They're not all they're cracked up to be. There's a disproportionate amount of stress associated with holidays; the sun tends to linger behind a thick veil of clouds, and many of us end up getting sick or depressed. If that weren't enough, unhealthy foods are at the ready at holiday parties and we end up gorging ourselves on sweets, fats and oh-so-many carbohydrates. A single vitamin -- vitamin D -- can help.
Vitamin D is important for the development and maintenance of strong bones, it's believed to potentially play a part in fighting off sickness and disease, and new research indicates it's probably a component of weight loss. Not only that, but there's evidence it keeps the brains of middle-age to elderly people working properly [source: Medical News Today]. Vitamin D deficiency has been shown to heighten the emotional symptoms of premenstrual syndrome; it leads to sluggishness and can create depression by altering brain chemicals [source: Moms Who Think].
Vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin because rays from the sun produce it. You only need to get a quarter hour of sunlight twice a week to receive enough vitamin D for good health [sources: Hand; Medical News Today]. In the winter, though, that may be tough. And since there aren't many foods that contain vitamin D, you have to know your stuff [source: Office of Dietary Supplements].
Click ahead to learn about some tasty foods that'll help you meet your body's vitamin D needs during the trying holidays.
It's all right to be a little devilish during the holidays if it's all in the name of good health and taste. Egg yolks are one of the limited sources of vitamin D, which are naturally available in food. All you need is about 600 IUs (International Units) to reach the daily requirement. We don't suggest you get try to get all your vitamin D from eggs -- at 41 IUs per egg, that'd be a lot of eggs -- but deviled eggs are a party pleaser that'll get you closer to the goal [source: Hand].
Boil a dozen eggs, slice them in half and remove the yolks. Mix the yolks with mustard and mayonnaise, and then scoop a dollop of the mixture into the hollow of each egg white half. Sprinkle with paprika and arrange on a serving tray.
Just 2 ounces (56.7 grams) of sardines can fulfill half your daily requirement of vitamin D, plus they contain lots of protein, calcium and omega 3's [source: Hilah Cooking]. Yes, many people find the smelly and oily fish to be, well, disgusting but there are many ways to eat them. Sardines come packed in water, oil or tomato sauce. You can eat them alone, in a sandwich or on a salad. They can be eaten raw or even fried. Sardines can also be eaten as an appetizer on a cracker or as part of the main course.
Let's be honest, sardines have gotten such a bad reputation that many people don't really know if they like them or not because they haven't tried them. But a holiday party is a great time to step out and be adventurous and since so many other snacks are often available as part of a holiday spread, you won't feel bad if you don't eat all the sardines on your plate.
Figgy pudding has long been associated with the holidays, thanks, in part, to the second stanza of "We Wish You a Merry Christmas." Admit it, it's stuck in your head right now. But the pudding doesn't have to be of the figgy variety to accompany a holiday meal or to be served as a party snack or dessert. And since pudding can come in so many varieties and flavors, you'll have lots of options to keep it interesting.
The key ingredient of pudding that makes it a vitamin D favorite is milk. As little as one cup of milk can provide up to 30 percent of your daily requirements of the vitamin [source: Office of Dietary Supplements]. The good news is that you can go ultra-healthy with skim milk, splurge with whole milk or take the middle road with 2-percent milk and still receive the full dosage of vitamin D. So, sing it with us, "We won't go until we get some, we won't go until we get some, we won't go until we get some -- so bring it right here."
Much has been made of the health benefits of salmon thanks to its plentiful supply of omega 3's. It's a tasty option that's become popular in restaurants because it doesn't overpower diners with its, well, fishiness the way the previously mentioned fish -- sardines -- can. And here's the added benefit; just 3 ounces (85 grams) of salmon offers a full day's supply of vitamin D [source: Office of Dietary Supplements].
Salmon can be served as part of an elegant main course at a holiday dinner, topped with lemon slices. It can be mixed into a salad, served on crackers or added into a pasta dish. Think of it as an option to the traditional holiday ham or turkey. It'll deliver good taste and good health.
Picture the holiday appetizer trays sitting out on a table covered in a spread of traditional seasonal colors. You've got your fruits, meats, breads and ... cheeses. Each slice of Swiss cheese offers about 2 percent of your daily vitamin D needs. We're not suggesting you make a "Dagwood" sandwich complete with 50 slices of Swiss but a little nibble here, a sandwich there, a topping over there, will help get you closer.
Foods are meant to complement each other, so think about combining options for both taste and vitamin D benefits. Make a sandwich using salmon and a slice of Swiss and have pudding for dessert. Don't forget to nibble on some deviled eggs while socializing with friends around the snack table. Be bold and throw back a sardine and chase it with a little milk. Enjoy the holidays and the health benefits of vitamin D.
HowStuffWorks targets five foods marketed as healthy that are often aren't, like sweet potato fries, protein bars and low-fat salad dressings.
- Hand, Becky. "How to Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamin D." (Sept. 22, 2012) http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1357
- Hilah Cooking. "The Sardine Experiment." (Sept. 24, 2012) http://hilahcooking.com/the-sardine-experiment-part-one/
- Jigsaw Health. "Why do you crave carbohydrates in the winter?" (Sept. 22, 2012) http://www.jigsawhealth.com/resources/carbohydrates-carbs
- Medical News Today. "What is Vitamin D? What are the benefits of Vitamin D?" Aug. 24, 2009. (Sept. 22, 2012) http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/161618.php
- Moms Who Think. "Vitamin D Deficiency and Moods." (Sept. 22, 2012) http://www.momswhothink.com/diet-and-nutrition/vitamin-d-deficiency-and-moods.html
- Office of Dietary Supplements. "Vitamin D." June 24, 2011. (Sept. 22, 2012) http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/