When we think of "vitamins," we know they're super-important for health.
But vitamin D is special.
It's difficult to get enough vitamin D; vitamin D is, therefore, a very common deficiency. Especially if you live far away from the equator (or all the way in the polar vortex like me)!
So, let's talk about how much of this critical fat-soluble vitamin we need, and how you can get enough. The three ways to vitamin D are exposure to the sun, consuming vitamin D containing food, and through supplements.
WHY IS VITAMIN D IMPORTANT, AND HOW MUCH DO YOU NEED?
Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our food and acts like a hormone to help us build strong bones. Vitamin D can also help with immune function, cellular growth, and help to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal affective disorder.
Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to bone diseases like osteomalacia. Inadequate vitamin D can also increase your risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers, and even death. The "official" minimum amount of vitamin D to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU. Which means this is how much you need to survive…. Not to thrive or be healthy. Many experts think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health. Many doctors and most natural healthy practitioners suggest anywhere from 4000-8000 IU a day.
To ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D, you can implement any combination of the three vitamin D sources mentioned above on a weekly basis.
HOW CAN I GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D FROM THE SUN?
Your skin makes vitamin D when it's exposed to the sun; that's why it's referred to as the "sunshine vitamin." How much vitamin D your skin makes depends on many things. Location, season, clouds, clothing, all affect the amount of vitamin D your skin can produce from the sun. One standard recommendation is to get about 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. to the face, arms, legs, or back. This should be done without sunscreen, at least twice a week. Of course, we should always avoid sunburns. In some locations (and seasons of the year) it's not easy to get sun exposure.
In fact, all of Canada and the northern half of the United States do not have sufficient UV rays from the sun between October and March to supply us with enough Vitamin D. Unless you went out and laid in the snow butt naked under direct sunlight for 8 hours. So, how can we get enough vitamin D in other ways?
HOW CAN YOU GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D THROUGH FOOD?
Vitamin D is naturally found in fatty fish, liver, and egg yolks. Some mushrooms make vitamin D when they're exposed to the sun.
Wild Salmon is my FAVORITE way to get in a healthy dose of vitamin D. I know wild salmon is pretty seasonal, so I love to stock pile it in my freezer for the winter. If you can’t get your hands on fresh wild salmon, canned is your next best bet. Seriously. Canned over farmed salmon every time. Honestly just skip the farmed salmon all together. There is never a point to eating farmed salmon. It has very little nutritional value and high levels of the junk we try and avoid.
Some foods are "fortified" (which means vitamin D has been added) with vitamin D. These include milk, some orange juices, breakfast cereals, and yogurt. It will say on the label how much vitamin D has been added per serving.
Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can increase absorption of it from your food if you eat it with some fat (healthy fat, of course). So skip the low fat milk.
Between sun exposure and food, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D each day; this is why vitamin D supplements are so popular.
HOW CAN YOU GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D FROM SUPPLEMENTATION?
It's easy enough to just "pop a pill" or take some cod liver oil (which also contains vitamin A). But before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure you check that it won't interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking. Always read your labels, and ask a healthcare professional for advice.
The maximum amount recommended by Health Canada (for the general population) is 4,000 IU/day. Most health care systems are pretty conservative when it comes to vitamin and nutrient recommendations so feel free to talk to your doctor, naturopath, TCM doctor about what would be best for you. Neurologists have been known to recommend amounts as high as 80,000 IU for patients with certain autoimmune diseases. That being said, too much vitamin D can raise your blood levels of calcium (to an unsafe level), and this can affect your heart and kidneys.
For the majority of people in Canada and the Northern half of the States start with 4000 IU’s. Then if you're concerned, ask your healthcare professional to do a blood test and make a recommendation about how much vitamin in supplement form is right for you.
Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin which; many people have a hard time maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D. There are three ways to get enough vitamin D: sun exposure, through certain foods, and in supplements.
I've given you some ideas how you can get the minimum 400-600 IU or vitamin D daily. But striving for levels up to 4000 IU is safe for most people and has major physical and mental health benefits.
If you're concerned, it's best to request a blood test that tests your vitamin D levels to be sure what's right for you. Always take supplements as directed.
SUPER SIMPLE GRILLED SALMON
4 wild salmon fillets
1 bunch asparagus
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 black pepper
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp. dried dill
4 tbsp olive oil
Preheat the oven broiler and raise the oven rack. Place parchment paper on a baking sheet and place fish on top, skin-side down. Surround with a single layer of asparagus.
Sprinkle the fish and asparagus with sea salt, pepper, parsley, and dill. Drizzle with olive oil.
Broil for 8-10 minutes until fish flakes easily with a fork.
Serve & enjoy!
Tip: Serve with a side of rice or quinoa.