What is Vitamin D
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin known as the “sunshine” vitamin because the body manufactures it after exposure to sunshine. Surprisingly, up to seventy-five percent of Americans are deficient due to indoor lifestyles and a lack of nutrient-dense foods. The good news is that there are plenty of natural ways to increase our vitamin D levels.
Benefits of Vitamin D
So, why is vitamin D so important? It is involved in numerous processes in the body. Vitamin D regulates bone health, preventing the development of osteoporosis.
It supports the immune system, controls the expression of over two-hundred genes and assists in neuromuscular function.
This inflammation-fighting super-vitamin can also be used in the prevention and treatment of arthritis, diabetes, muscle weakness, depression, and even cancer. A groundbreaking study found that an intake of 2000 IU per day of vitamin D(3) is enough to prevent breast, colon, ovarian, prostate, pancreatic and other types of cancer.
Perhaps the most remarkable finding is that vitamin D actually reduces all-cause mortality. A recent study with over twenty-six thousand subjects found that higher vitamin D levels were associated with a longer lifespan.
There are three ways that our bodies can obtain Vitamin D.
Unlike other vitamins and minerals, the body is able to make its own vitamin D from cholesterol in the skin when exposed to sunlight. Many studies point to 10-30 minutes of direct midday sun as the golden zone of vitamin D production.
No doubt the safest way to obtain vitamin D is from natural sunlight, but our busy lifestyles can make it difficult to produce adequate vitamin D in this way.
This is where the primal diet comes in.
Conveniently, the Paleo diet is full of foods that provide a high amount of vitamin D. Our ancestors consumed an abundance of vitamin D foods, including intestines, organ meats, fatty fish and insects. In our modern diet, unfortunately, most people tend to avoid foods such as sardines, mackerel, herring, beef liver and egg yolk, which are loaded with vitamin D.
Another option to consider is pasture-raised pork. Pigs that are raised on natural foods and roam freely outdoors are full of monounsaturated fats and vitamin D. Their skin and fat produce the vitamin in the same way that humans do, so we can add more vitamin D to our diets by consuming pasture-raised pork.
To increase your intake of vitamin D through diet, aim to incorporate these foods as often as possible.
However, a diet rich in Vitamin D might not be enough.
The obvious solution is to supplement, but when supplementing, you want to consider that intake levels of other fat-soluble nutrients have an impact on the way your body processes vitamin D.
If you are deficient in vitamin A, for example, vitamin D becomes toxic at lower levels. Vitamin D also needs to be paired with vitamin K2, which deposits calcium in the bones and teeth. K2 is especially important in preventing calcification, where calcium accumulates in arteries and soft tissues which can result in a host of issues. So, taking vitamins A and K2 with vitamin D is the best approach.
How much Vitamin D do you need?
The optimal level of vitamin D is heavily debated, but practitioners currently recommend a level between 25-50 ng/dL and ideally around 35 ng/dL. To reach your ideal level, try combining daily sun exposure with a vitamin D-rich diet of salmon and sardines, and supplementing when needed.
With the numerous health benefits of vitamin D, making a small effort to incorporate this super nutrient into your lifestyle is worthwhile.
If you would like to learn more about the fitness and nutrition programs we offer, request a free consultation today!