Winter is Coming We Need to Talk about Vitamin D

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Vitamin D

For everyone living in the Northern Hemisphere, Vitamin D deficiency can be a worry during the winter months when we see fewer hours of sunlight each day.

In the past, Rickets (a disease caused by severe Vitamin D deficiency that results in soft, brittle bones and “bowed” legs) could be found in many third-world countries, and even in countries like the UK (especially during the war years when dairy products were scarce and natural sunlight was limited.

Fortunately, extreme deficiencies aren’t nearly as common in the developed world as they used to be, due to the fortification of foods and the increased availability of supplements.

So, here’s a little background on this important nutrient (Vitamin D)

Why we need it, where to find it, how to get enough, etc…

 WHAT

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble hormone – not actually a vitamin – because it is synthesized in the liver and helps to control blood calcium levels. When sunlight hits the skin, a chemical reaction occurs and Vitamin D is produced. It is truly an amazing process.

Vitamin D promotes the very important absorption by the body of calcium, phosphorous, and other minerals.

WHY

Adequate levels of this hormone promote the following:

  • Strong, healthy bones
  • Improved mood (reduced incidence of depression)
  • Reduced risk of multiple sclerosis
  • Improved gut function and colon health (due to increased production of serotonin and other mood neurochemicals)
  • Improved immunity and general wellness

WHERE

The best source of Vitamin D is the sun. When the sun’s UVB rays make contact with our skin, photosynthesis occurs and Vitamin D is produced.

However, as we all know, the risk of skin cancer is unbelievably high and on the rise, so it is recommended that no more than 15 minutes of unprotected sunshine be allowed per day. A broad-spectrum sunscreen that protects from both UVA and UVB rays should be applied every 2 hours whenever we are outside.

Other good sources of Vitamin D are:

  • Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)
  • Fortified milk products (look for non-dairy sources like cashew, almond, and coconut)
  • Mushrooms (yes, most sources of fungi are excellent sources of Vitamin D)
  • Fortified cereals (consume these minimally and/or look for organic, minimally-processed, and naturally sweetened options)

HOW

You may be asking yourself how it is possible to get enough Vitamin D while living in North America and consuming a plant-based diet. You are not alone in asking this question.

For people who consume animal products, they can easily reach their Vitamin D targets by eating dairy, eggs, fish, and liver. For those on a plant-based diet, we may have to try a little harder, but it is very doable!

Here is what we recommend:

  • 15 min of sunshine / day (when the weather permits, of course)
  • Consumption of healthy fats (like coconut and olive oil) because Vitamin D is fat-soluble, it requires fat to be absorbed properly
  • Drinking and/or eating non-dairy “milk” products (like nut milk, yogurt, and cheese) that have been fortified with Vitamin D
  • Taking a vegan D3 supplement (approx. 400 IU / day)
  • Adding a variety of mushrooms to your diet – Portobello, cremini, shitake, etc. have so much flavour and are wonderful sources of this important nutrient (as well as others like niacin, thiamin, and riboflavin)

A few notes about Supplements

As with all supplements, we recommend discussing them first with your health care practitioner. Look for VEGAN options (non-vegan Vitamin D supplements frequently contain lanolin, which is found in sheep’s skin).

Also, with regards to quantity, if you suffer with depression, live in a cold, dark, Northern climate, or, are affected by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), you may need to increase your dose, but please check with your naturopath or doctor first.

And a bit more about mushrooms … 

As we discussed, mushrooms are a wonderful way to add a completely natural form of Vitamin D to your diet. Here are some of our favourite ways to serve them:

  1. In a stir fry with loads of leafy greens, garlic, and ginger
  2. Stuffed with spinach, mild red onion, and pine nuts
  3. Mixed with lentils and topped with cauliflower for a plant-based version of Shepherd’s Pie
  4. Combined with wild rice and seasonings for a delicious stuffing
  5. In a veggie burger along with quinoa and sweet potato

Yum! Now we are hungry just thinking about all of these delicious options.

If you have additional questions about Vitamin D, please reach out to us – we’d love to help.


Lastly, thank you so much for visiting! I hope you have found some valuable information, if so, I’d love to hear about it!

Please feel free to share this post with anyone who might benefit, and comments are always welcome!

I look forward to connecting with you next time!

And be sure to check out why you should order your family’s next meal courtesy of Ki’s Kitchen  
Vitamin D

From our kitchen to yours,

Love + Peace

Kiran 

Before you go! Tune into our Facebook Page on how YOU can earn a free meal courtesy of Ki’s Kitchen!

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