Vitamin D is a hot topic across the country, from West Coast nutrition clinics to Washington DC acupuncture offices. It isn’t just a fad, though – research shows the correct level of vitamin D can be extremely beneficial. It can help in many areas, such as:
- Improving your mood
- Increasing your energy level
- Helping you lose weight
- Reducing hormonal problems
- Regulating your immune system
- Absorbing important minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc
Sources of Vitamin D
Vitamin D is available from four major sources: sunlight, food, cod liver oil and supplements.
Popular literature proclaims sunlight can provide your entire vitamin D requirement but this is a myth, according to Kristin Sullivan, a California-based clinical nutritionist. Sullivan says you can only get adequate vitamin D from the sun’s UV-B rays. On top of that, you need to be in the sun at midday to reap the UV-B benefits. In much of this country, even midday sunning won’t help for about half the year when the UV-B sunlight isn’t sufficient. Therefore, you need to look elsewhere for your vitamin D intake.
Foods High in Vitamin D
Modern diets – especially vegan and vegetarian diets – often lack adequate vitamin D, which is found primarily in saturated fats and omega-3 fats. According to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, foods richest in vitamin D include:
- Sturgeon Roe
These foods can help meet your vitamin D needs, but they don’t show up on most dinner tables in America. That’s why many people turn to cod liver oil and synthetic supplements for additional vitamin D.
Cod Liver Oil
For adequate vitamin D, experts often recommend taking cod liver oil or supplements derived from fish oil. Cod liver oil is the richest dietary source of vitamin D, but not all cod liver oils are created equal. Some go through a process that removes the natural vitamins, and some add manufactured vitamins. It’s important to look for cod liver oil that has high natural vitamins – for instance, the top-quality Blue Ice High-Vitamin Fermented Cod Liver Oil.
Cod liver oil also supplies vitamin A, which can be harmful in excess. Nutrition writers Sally Fallon Morrell and Mary G. Enig recommend these doses for the optimal amount of cod liver oil, plus safe vitamin A intake:
- Children 3 months to 12 years old: A half teaspoon of high-vitamin cod liver oil
- Adults and children older than 12: One teaspoon of high-vitamin cod liver oil
- Pregnant and nursing women: Two teaspoons high-vitamin cod liver oil
Synthetic Vitamin D Supplements
Many people pick out vitamin D supplements from the grocery store aisles, not realizing that most of those supplements are made from synthetic ingredients. However, it’s far better to stick to natural high-vitamin cod liver oil for your vitamin D therapy. Synthetic vitamin D supplements are much less effective than natural, fermented cod liver oil – and synthetic vitamins actually may drain your body of important nutrients.
Vitamin D Testing
Everyone is different when it comes to the optimal dose of vitamin D; recommended amounts may range from 200 to 4,000 IU (international units). Overdosing on vitamin D can be even more harmful than suffering from a deficiency – for example, it can cause severe bone loss.
You can get tested to find out how much is best for you. Sullivan recommends a test called 25(OH)D rather than one for 1,25(OH)D. She says the former test more reliably measures your vitamin D status.
When you find the right amount of vitamin D for your body, the results can be impressive. People on vitamin D therapy often shed pounds, stabilize their blood sugar, feel less depressed and/or enjoy more energy. It turns out that along with correcting physical problems, sufficient vitamin D can truly create a sunny disposition.
The Weston A. Price Foundation publishes articles on many nutritional topics, including vitamin D and cod liver oil. For more information, check out The Miracle of Vitamin D and Cod Liver Oil Basics and Recommendations
Blog post by Barbara Dunlap