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The Brain Boosting Benefits of Vitamin D

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a not only a vitamin, but a hormone as well.  As a hormone, it helps with the absorption of calcium, which supports strong bones and muscles. It boosts your child’s brain by activating genes that release brain chemicals that play a role in mood and cognitive processing such as dopamine and serotonin. 

Why is it important?

Every tissue in the body has vitamin D receptors, including major organs, such as the brain and heart. Our immune system also needs vitamin D to function.  It fights diseases and even reduces the likelihood of developing the flu. When vitamin D is deficient your child’s brain functioning is compromised, which may result in psychological disorders such as depression and ADHD. 

How does it boost my child’s brain? 

Vitamin D is linked to serotonin.  Serotonin is referred to as the “happiness hormone” for a reason.  An optimal level of serotonin is of significant importance for the brain and mood.  If serotonin is low depression and mental health issues may occur.  Research has also linked vitamin D with executive functioning (higher level cognitive skills needed to regulate behavior), memory, and cognitive impairment.

Ways to naturally boost vitamin D:

  • Spend time in the sunlight. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because the sun is one of the best ways to receive this nutrient.  Science tells us vitamin D from the sun is present twice as long in body than vitamin D from supplements. 
  • Eat fish.  Wild-caught fish is rich in vitamin D.  Salmon is especially great for the brain and contains about 50% of the daily recommended intake.  Other types of fish also contain vitamin D such as shrimp and tuna. 
  • Eat free-range eggs.  Chickens who have access to sunlight produce eggs with more vitamin D. 
  • Exercise. Harvard recently showed that vigorous exercise can boost vitamin D. Aerial yoga can be vigorous…

A healthy diet and plenty of sunshine are always the best ways to derive vitamin D. However, if your child is deficient, talk to your doctor about whether a supplement is needed. It’s always important to have levels checked with a blood test to confirm a deficiency and talk to medical professionals about the risks and benefits of supplements before giving your child any kind of supplement. Sunshine and running are free brain-boosting ways to increase vitamin D and best of all, they don’t require blood tests!

References

Hogberg G, Gustafsson SA, Hallstrom T, et al. Depressed adolescents in a case-series were low in vitamin D and depression was ameliorated by vitamin D supplementation. Acta. Paediatrica 101(7), 779-783 (2012).

Tolppanen AM SA, Fraser WD, Lewis G, et al. The association of serum 25-hydroxy vitamin D3 and D2 with depressive symptoms in childhood-a prospective cohort study. J. Child. Psychol. Psychiatry 53(7), 757-766 (2012)

Holick MF. Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Am. J. Clin. Nutr 80(6 Suppl), 1678s-88s (2004).