Although its name would convince you otherwise, vitamin D is in fact not a vitamin (as our skin can manufacture it), but a fat-soluble steroid hormone. It is responsible for controlling calcium levels in the blood and therefore bone health, muscle function, nerve conduction and your overall physiological health.
While getting enough vitamin D is important all year round, it becomes even more so as you enter the winter months, where your vitamin D from natural sunlight is reduced. If you live in parts of the world with extended periods of darkness, prioritising your nutrition and lifestyle is key to preventing conditions such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), otherwise known as winter depression.
Here’s what you can do:
- Eat your yolks. Yes, egg yolks are nutrition bombs and egg contains approximately 40 IU of vitamin D. If you still think that the cholesterol in eggs is a dietary issue, you’ve been living under a rock. Read Cholesterol Clarity by Jimmy Moore and Eat The Yolks by Liz Wolfe immediately.
- Cook with lard. Lard is extremely nutrient rich and a one tablespoon serve contains approximately 100 IU of vitamin D. Yes, you read that right – lard is one of our richest dietary sources of vitamin D. Simply rotate with your coconut oil and grass fed butter. More on fats here.
- Add mushrooms. Light exposed mushrooms naturally produce vitamin D and these are in fact the only food source that can supply our entire day’s intake in just one 100g serve. In Australia, vitamin D mushrooms are becoming available in supermarkets, but you can simply place your store-bought mushrooms in the midday sun for a couple of hours prior to using, to achieve the desired result.
- Mix up your protein options. Including oily fish such as salmon offers many health benefits, including the provision of more than double your daily vitamin D requirement. Adding liver covers more micronutrients than fruit and vegetables and supplies 19 IU of vitamin D per 100g serve. As always, please choose grass-fed proteins for both optimal nutrition and sustainable farming practices.
Nutrition should always be your number one priority, but the reality is that in the case of vitamin D, we only obtain approximately 10 per cent of our daily requirements from food. So please include the following too:
- Aim for a minimum of 15 minutes of sunlight between the hours of 10am and 3pm. To ensure you are producing vitamin D, check your shadow. When it is much shorter than you, the sun’s rays are entering the atmosphere at the correct angle for your skin to utilize the UVB rays. In winter, you will notice that your shadow is much longer for most of the day, and this is when no amount of sun will be beneficial.
- Supplement. Speak to your Nutritionist or Naturopath first, but please consider a good quality practitioner only Vitamin D. A three-monthly blood test will assist in determining the necessity of this, as well as your required dosage.
What steps will you take to ensure you are getting enough vitamin D?
Calvo MS, Babu US, Garthoff LH, Woods TO, Dreber M, Hill G, Nagaraja S. (2012). Vitamin D2 from light-exposed edible mushrooms is safe, bioavailable and effectively supports bone growth in rats. Osteoporosis International, 24(1), 197-20.
Gagnon C, Lu ZX, Magliano DJ, Dunstan DW, Sikaris KA, Zimmet PZ, Ebeling PR, Shaw JE. (2012). Prevalence of vitamin D deficiency and its determinants in Australian adults aged 25 years and older: a national, population-based study. Clinical Endocrinology, 77(1), 26-35.
Nowson CA, McGrath JJ, Ebeling PR, Haikerwal A, Daly RM, Sanders KM, Seibel MJ, Mason RS. (2012). Vitamin D and health in adults in Australia and New Zealand: a position statement. The Medical Journal of Australia. 196(11), 686-687.
Image credit here.