Where do YOU get your Vitamin D?
By Sylvia P. Onusic, PhD
In the last couple years research on vitamin D has been exploding and much has been discovered about its role in health. Not only is it necessary for calcium absorption in order to be used in bone growth and other functions, but scientists have found that a deficiency plays a major role in the development of diabetes, psoriasis, tuberculosis, and osteoporosis. They have found a large number of vitamin D receptors in the breast, prostate and colon indicating that vitamin D has a major purpose in those parts of the body. It is thought to play an important role in cancer prevention as well.
The Missing Nutrient
At the recent Lactose Intolerance Conference at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, the majority of the 14 expert panelists stressed and re-stressed that calcium is the go-to nutrient in milk and that it is difficult to get it in any other way. Little mention was made of vitamin D- without which, calcium absorption isn’t happening. “Perhaps they are loathe to bring the subject up,” says Kim Hartke, Weston A. Price Foundation publicist who manned an exhibit at the conference, “because the natural vitamin D in processed milk is negligible and the industry has to fortify with a synthetic D.”
Another biochemical fact is that vitamin D works in tandem with vitamin A. No mention was made of vitamin A at all at the conference, although a synthetic form, vitamin A palmitate, is added to pasteurized milk so we know that the food industry is aware of it. Removing or reducing the amount of butterfat from milk removes vitamin A.
Sunlight is the Secret
Vitamin D was originally discovered in cod liver oil. CLO was given to prevent malformation of the bones called rickets in children. Dr. Weston Price advocated the use of cod liver oil, which also contains preformed vitamin A and used it very successfully in his practice. Scientists found that vitamin D 3 (cholecalciferol), formed in the skin by sunlight acting on cholesterol, is the active form of vitamin D in the body.
Cholesterol is required for the development of human vitamin D. If a person is taking statin drugs to supress cholesterol, will they have low vitamin D status? There is a blood test, “25 hydroxy vitamin D,” which can show if a person if vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D 2, which has been used in the US to fortify many foods from 1940-1980 and is now used in soy milks as the Vitamin D source, is not found naturally in humans and other vertebrates. It has been known for awhile now, according to Current Knowledge in Nutrition (2006), that D 2 has only about 1/3th the biological potency of D 3.
Food Sources of Vitamin D
If you don’t use cod liver oil, where can you get your Vitamin D3? Fish are a good source, especially cold water fish like herring, salmon and sardines. One of the main points I learned during my food tour of Poland this past September was that herring is indeed a most sacred food, it is prepared in many ways, and appears almost daily on the Polish table. Poland does not receive much sun in the North during the fall and winter and herring is a major Vitamin D source. Here in the US pickled herring can be found in most grocery stores, and in Slavic or specialty stores, herring is sold in oil. The secret is to drain off the oil, add fresh lemon juice, chopped onions, peppercorns, bay leaves, to the container, and let sit in the fridge for a couple days. The result is a lovely mild tasting herring. Served with fresh chopped dill, hard boiled egg, and dark whole grain bread, it’s is a most refreshing and super nutrition packed meal or snack. Wild salmon is also a good source of Vitamin D 3. Farmed salmon are usually fed ground corn and vitamin D levels are low. Fish roe contain a fair amount of vitamin D. Beware of sardines packed in soybean oil.
Blood contains vitamin D and many cultures have found a way to encompass it into an edible form. A traditional food in Slovenia, Germany and Austria is sausage prepared from blood which is prepared grilled or sauteed. It is usually available only during the winter months. In addition to liver, this was my father’s ultimate favorite food. He consumed it regularly as a child. The Masai, a pastoral tribe in Africa, also consume blood.
Lard, prepared from farm raised pigs also contains vitamin D. Lard is a good fat to use in cooking because it is hard at room temperature which means it will not spoil or become rancid as quickly as liquid oils at room temp do. But lard purchased in the supermarket is usually hydrogenated and thus a transfat to be avoided. Potatoes, cabbage, and other vegetables sautéed in farm fresh lard are very flavorful.
Butter from pastured cows on green grass also contains nice amounts of natural vitamin D as does farm fresh, unprocessed milk. The vitamin D is in the butterfat. Conventional milk, produced from cows that are usually fed a combination of corn, soybeans, citrus or chocolate factory waste, brewery or ethanol waste, and does not naturally contain vitamin D. These cows kept in factory barns, may never even see the pasture or feel the sun in their lifetimes.
The Critical Balance of Vitamins D and A
Foods which contain vitamin D are usually naturally balanced with vitamin A, as both vitamins are needed to complement their combined synergistic effects. Supplementing with too high vitamin D can cause a condition called vitamin D toxicity which results in calcium kidney stones and other problems. Because vitamins A and D are found only in foods of animal origin, vegetarians must be especially vigilant in supplying these vitamins into their diet, because their main source would be supplements. Although pastured eggs do supply a small amount of vitamin D, it would be wise to add cod liver oil to their diet if possible. The Weston A Price Foundation website, lists several well produced cod liver oils, Cod Liver Oil Basics and Recommendations.
Sylvia P. Onusic holds a PhD in Health Education and Nutrition. She has completed all coursework to qualify for Registered Dietitian. She is also a certified nutrition teacher in Pennsylvania and has taught nutrition in local high schools and on the university level. She is a member of the American Society for Nutrition, PASA- Pennsylvania Sustainable Agriculture, and Weston A Price Foundation.
Sylvia will be speaking at the upcoming Raw Milk Symposium, on Raw Milk Perspectives in Europe.
This second international Raw Milk Symposium is coming up April 10 in Wisconsin. Click on this link, rawmilksymposium.org for more information and to register to attend.
Peggy of Local Nourishment blog says Kids Aren’t Getting Enough Vitamin D.