Recently, I had a question on raising Vitamin D levels. It’s a great topic as we move into Daylight Savings time change and limited winter exposure to a valuable source, the sun. One third of us have insufficient levels to function, and 93% don’t consume enough D, which plays an important role in:

  • All cellular and tissue in the body requires this vitamin to operate properly – without which we experience fatigue and pain, and musculoskeletal pain and weakness
  • Protects against viral and bacterial infection (this winter’s colds and flus), chronic diseases, several types of cancer, and heart disease.
  • Linked in medical research to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.

What else to know about vitamin D
Vitamin D is a team player, so be sure to include adequate vitamins K2 and A (retinoic acid, or the pre-vitamin A of beta carotene), as well as magnesium and zinc. Vitamin D occurring naturally in foods, is accompanied by these and other minerals and vitamins which are more absorbable and work effectively in synergy. Supplements are a secondary choice in effectiveness.

Best sources of Vitamin D

In the skin as Vitamin D3
Sunlight is the best natural source our bodies are designed to process. 20-25 minutes minimum is recommended. Note: sunscreen blocks vitamin D3 synthesis, so delay applying until you’ve taken in your minimum Ds.

For Northern Hemisphere dwellers, studies show using portable UV tanning device (ie: sunlamp for 10 minutes @ 14” distance) emitting sunlight-like UV radiation to be effective in producing vitamin D3 in the skin.

In the diet as Vitamin D2:

  • Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, tuna, and mackerel) approx 450IU’s in a 3oz sockeye salmon fillet), also offer healthy omega-3 fatty acids for cardiovascular health! Wild caught is your cleanest, least toxic source. One easy and reliable source is canned pink salmon.
  • Fortified dairy in the form of milk, yogurt, or kefir (sorry, not cheese or ice cream!). For lactose sensitive folks, try yogurt and kefir, fermented foods, which convert lactose to more digestible lactase during fermentation – and also contribute vitamin K2 (see below) for immunity building and vitamin D synthesis!
  • Eggs offer approximately 40IU of vitamin D per yolk. They also contain healthy protein, zinc, and vitamin A (retinoid acid) to support vitamin D absorption.
  • High quality cod liver or krill oil are other good sources when including the best foods in your diet is unreliable.

Vitamin D’s Team: Magnesium, Zinc, vitamin K2, and Vitamin A

Magnesium rich foods: Spinach, swiss chard, avocado, seeds of pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame.

Zinc rich foods: Eggs are a great start! Also seafood, lamb, wheat germ, spinach, pumpkin seeds (see magnesium), nuts (esp cashews) and cooked beans (kidney or garbanzo, including hummus), and napa cabbage (raw or cooked).

K2 sources: primarily made in the body, it is also produced by bacteria in fermented foods -among them and growing in popularity those such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and kim chi. Homemade is best (See my fermented foods blog for more on this).

Vitamin A (retinoic acid, or RA) rich foods:

  • If RA-rich organ meats of beef, lamb, pork, and poultry (kidney, liver, giblets) aren’t to your liking, look to some of the foods already mentioned for vitamin D2 sources! Consider fatty ocean fish, eggs, and dairy.
  • Colorful orange, yellow, and dark leafy vegetables and fruits contain beta-carotene, which our bodies convert to RA. Sources include carrots, squash, sweet potatoes, red/orange peppers, spinach (see zinc!), swiss chard, beets/beet greens, cantaloupe, mangoes, and apricots. Eat unlimited amounts of these!

To combat fatigue and kick your health into gear, try adding in some of these changes to your lifestyle and diet – a little or a lot, or gradually make the shift for sustainable healthy change. Not only will you support your vitamin D needs, but you’ll improve your overall energy and vitality to keep you going strong this winter!

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