The Deal with D

Vitamin D

The Deal With D

Called “The Sunshine Vitamin”, the importance of Vitamin D has become apparent within the last decade or so. It’s called “The Sunshine Vitamin” because when your body is exposed to the sun, your skin makes the vitamin and it is then sent to your liver. The liver converts it to a new substance called 25(OH)D. From the liver, it is sent all over your body where different tissues convert it to the active form. Activated Vitamin D3 serves multi purposes. D3 affects up to 2,000 genes which underlines the power of this mighty nutrient.

Perhaps the most vital and well known role for D3 is regulating the absorption of calcium & other bone and teeth strengthening nutrients. Calcium is especially important during infancy and teenage years because of growth.  Poor calcium absorption leads to low calcium levels and poor bone development. Over long periods of time, low levels of vitamin D-3 contribute to osteoporosis.

Studies also suggest that vitamin D-3 supplementation helps resolve seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  The theory is that restoring optimal vitamin D-3 levels alleviates symptoms of depression resulting from low sunlight exposure during winter months.

In addition to its primary benefits Vitamin D is a critical nutrient for many systems in the body including:

  1. Optimizing immune system function, reducing the likelihood of developing the flu and helping to fight other infections
  2. Muscle function
  3. Improving blood sugar and reducing insulin resistance
  4. Reducing inflammations
  5. Decreasing heart disease risk and improving circulation (blood flow)
  6. Respiratory system, improved breathing, optimizing  healthy lungs and airways
  7. Brain development
  8. Cellular communication

So what happens if you don’t get enough sunlight on your skin?

Vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency is a concern for many of us who live in cooler climates. By not having exposed skin in the sun each day, we may become deficient and can’t reap the benefits of this important vitamin.

Deficiency of Vitamin D is implicated in many disorders ranging from osteoporosis to certain cancers (colorectal, breast, pancreatic, and others). Other conditions associated with low Vitamin D levels include high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases, such as lupus and multiple sclerosis, influenza, eczema, asthma and depression.

How do you know if you are deficient in vitamin D? There are certain groups of people that are more prone to be deficient. These include:

  • People with darker skin tones
  • People who spend a lot of time indoors
  • People who cover their skin most of the time
  • People that live in the northern U.S. or Canada (or other cooler climates)
  • Infants that are breastfed and not given a vitamin D supplement
  • Pregnant women
  • People who are obese

You may not show any signs or symptoms of vitamin D deficiency so it is important to have your blood levels tested.  For convenience, you can order a  test kit through PHS Diagnostics.  When looking at the results, the sufficient level, according to the Vitamin D council, is between 40 and 80 ng/ml. Studies support that adults need to consume 5,000 IU/day of a vitamin D3 supplement each day to reach and maintain optimal levels. Once achieved, supplementation at 2,000 to 4,000 IU a day (less in the summer time with greater sun exposure; higher range in the winter or when indoors more often than not) should maintain optimal levels.  If your level is low and you start a vitamin D3 regimen, it is wise to re-check your levels every 3 months to ascertain results, then twice annually.

Vitamin D is one of the most important nutrients that your body utilizes. Having proper levels in your blood may help to keep you healthy and supplementation is crucial to keeping sufficient levels. It is very difficult to get enough vitamin D from your diet because there are so few foods that contain enough to make a difference in keeping your levels optimal.

In addition to capturing vitamin D from sun exposure, you can get the vitamin from the following  food sources.

  • Dairy products — such as cheese, unsweetened yogurt, butter and fortified milk (including unsweetened almond and coconut milk)
  • Fatty fish (salmon, sardines and oysters)
  • Egg yolk
  • Shrimp
  • Fortified juice

Meeting daily vitamin D requirements via sun exposure may be difficult. Depending on skin color, where you live and season of the year.   45 minutes to 3 hours per week of sun exposure may be needed to make enough. Sunlight needs to reach face, arms, back and legs without sunscreen.

source: vitamin d council

*The statements in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.

 

Tom Ka Kai (Thai Coconut Milk Soup)

tom ka kai image

We’re crazy for Coconuts!

Coconut milk contains beneficial fat called lauric acid, a medium-chain fatty acid that’s easily absorbed and used by the body for energy.   Lauric Acid is converted in the body into a highly beneficial compound called monolaurin, an antiviral and antibacterial that destroys a wide variety of disease causing organisms.  Coconuts’ fatty acids may help you lower cholesterol levels, improve blood pressure, and prevent heart attacks or a stroke.

This delicious Thai soup is really easy to make and is a lovely first course.  Add prawns and carrots in to make it more of a meal. Adjust spice heat levels with chili pepper quantity.  Can also “ease in” hot chili sauce (Sriracha) for each serving.  A few drops should satisfy the more tolerant palette.

Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon coconut or peanut oil
  • 1-2 fresh red chilis, seeded and sliced (jalapenos can be substituted)
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 large leek, cleaned and thinly sliced
  • 2 ½ cups organic chicken broth
  • 1 can (1 2/3 cups) organic coconut milk (can use light for a lower calorie option)
  • 1 lb boneless, skinless organic chicken breast cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 Tbl Thai fish sauce
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, split
  • 1-inch piece fresh ginger or galangal, peeled and finely chopped or grated
  • 1 teaspoon raw sugar
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves, gently stretch and bruise (optional, any lime leaves work)
  • ¾ cup frozen organic baby peas, thawed
  • 1 pack fresh Enoki mushroom, trimmed and separated (shitake or oyster mushrooms can also be used)
  • 3 fresh scallions (green onions), trimmed and thinly sliced on a slight diagonal
  • 3 Tbs chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • Lime Wedges and Cilantro, Mint or Thai Basil for garnish (optional)

Preparation:

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the chilies and garlic for 2 minutes
  2. Add the leek and cook for 2 more minutes, stirring frequently
  3. Stir in the broth and coconut milk and bring to a boil
  4. Add chicken, fish sauce, lemongrass, ginger, sugar and lime leaves
  5. Simmer, covered, 15 minutes ‘til chicken is tender, stirring occasionally
  6. Add peas and mushrooms, cook for 3-5 more minutes
  7. Remove the lemongrass and lime leaves
  8. Stir in the cilantro and serve garnished with lime wedges and fresh cilantro, mint or basil

Serves 4