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Joe Cafe is one common spot where you can stay warm in the winter but also soak up some natural light.


It’s that time of the year again. As the temperatures drop and the sun sets earlier, Low Beach season is over and the winter blues are settling in. How can you keep your mood up and still soak in enough vitamin D?

Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium and supports healthy bones and the immune system. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with brittle bones, weakened muscles, and an increased susceptibility to infection. Even though most of us can get enough of this important mineral from soaking in the sun during the warmer months, there are a variety of alternative sources and supplements to get even the most vitamin D deficient among us through the darkness of winter.

First step: Stock up on those supplements.

There are actually several types of vitamin D used by the body. While D2 and D3 are metabolically equivalent in the body, D2 supplements can be slightly less potent. If you’re not taking a multivitamin or a calcium supplement that includes vitamin D, a D3 is the way to go in the colder months when sun exposure is limited.

The Vitamin Shoppe on Broadway at 110th Street is your walking-distance one-stop shop for supplements galore. D3 combos range from $5.99 to $14.99.

And don’t count out your beloved local convenience store, Duane Reade: The franchises at 111th Street & Broadway and 106th Street & Broadway are offering buy one, get one free deals on $6.99 Nature Made Vitamin D3 supplements through Dec. 2.

In terms of choosing your supplements, pay attention to the source: If you’re vegan or vegetarian, for example, you’ll want to avoid supplements derived from cod liver or fish oil. An alternative that’s become widely available lately is the lichen-derived supplement: This will be a bit pricier at Vitamin Shoppe, but it’s a viable replacement for animal-based products.

Vitamin D-ify your diet

You can also work toward your vitamin D fix in a slightly tastier way—noshing on fatty fish (salmon and tuna are two options) and eggs (so yes, an Artopolis omelette is actually justifiably healthy). The National Institutes of Health’s website stipulates that it’s pretty tough to get enough vitamin D from natural foods, but it’s got a pretty comprehensive list of the fish and egg basics that will help you out.

For those on a no-animal diet, this process might be a bit trickier. There’s been a fairly erudite debate about whether mushrooms are a potent source of vitamin D, and the general consensus is that certain edible mushroom varieties (shiitake, maitake, and button, to name a few) do contain some vitamin D2, but definitely not enough to prevent a deficiency on their own. You might want to try fortified breakfast cereals or plant milks, but there’s also some uncertainty about whether these vegan alternatives are actually decent sources of proteins and vitamins.

Maintain your mood: Find a sunny study spot on campus

If you live north of Atlanta, it’s impossible to get sufficient D amounts from the sun in the winter, because the sun doesn’t get high enough to produce essential ultraviolet B rays. While ultraviolet rays won’t penetrate glass, sun exposure helps prevent depression, anxiety, and insomnia.

Although the outdoor study days are (pretty much) over, you can improve your mood by scoping out some of these sun-filled study spots.

The Northwest Corner Building: Home to Joe, the Science and Engineering Library, and some cheerful white marble walls, NoCo is an ideal place to pretend you’re outside perched over Broadway when it’s too cold to actually walk down Broadway.

Avery Library first floor (by the window): If you’re lucky enough to snag a first-floor spot and don’t mind a re-upholstered chair from the 1800s, Avery is for you.

Diana Center second to fifth floors: There’s nothing quite like Diana lighting. Take a seat on the west side and you’ll get to dream about the light that will filter through the new Teaching and Learning Center’s floor-to-ceiling windows when it (finally) opens next year.

Law School: The Law School itself may ooze stress, but there’s a paradise of a study room in Lenfest Café.

Music & Arts Library top floor (Dodge Hall): You’ll get a sweeping view of campus rooftops that might bring some peace of mind to your pre-finals blues.

Your best bet for protecting your body and mind against the dark days of winter is to stock up on vitamin supplements and take frequent 10- to 20-minute study breaks, or a lunchtime stroll outside. As for your sunlight “exposure” from some of the better-lit spots on campus, you may not be absorbing any actual vitamins—but your mood will probably take a turn for the brighter.

olivia.hartzell@columbiaspectator.com | @CUSpectrum


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