I’ve talked at length about the importance of vitamin D in health â€“ particularly its role in maintaining immunity and protecting fertility. Moreover, insufficient and deficient levels of vitamin D are linked to chronic disease: autoimmune disorders, infertility, cancer, depression, chronic pain, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, cognitive dysfunction, you name it. This nutrient â€“ truly a pre-hormone â€“ is critical to overall health and well-being. It is vital to health.
Sadly, approximately 70% of children suffer from suboptimal levels of vitamin D and so do most adults. While most of us in good health can manufacture vitamin D from adequate sun exposure, we’re still not getting adequate sun exposure. We spend our days indoors, and when we do venture outside we slather ourselves in UV-blocking sun creams which may very well block ultra violet light, but also block our bodies’ ability to produce vitamin D.
Now that the days have grown dark and the sun hangs low in the sky, we’re receiving fewer and fewer of its valuable rays. After all, the shortest day of the year is but a few weeks away. So as the days become colder and shorter, it’s wise to investigate alternative sources of vitamin D. Fortunately, nourishing foods offer a good source of vitamin D â€“ and that’s without fortification.
Believe it or not, lard is a health food. Yes, really. You see hogs are monogastric animals – that is they have one stomach, and like all monogastric animals, they store vitamin D in their fat. Of course, hogs, much like humans must have access to adequate sunlight in order to produce adequate levels of vitamin D in their fat. The manner in which an animal is raised greatly affects the nutritional quality of its meat, fat and milk. Recent nutritional analysis indicates that the lard from a pasture-raised hog contains significantly more vitamin D than that of one that has been conventionally raised.
Pastured lard can be used in a variety of ways: homemade mayonnaise and potato chips, in biscuits and pie crusts or for frying and braising.
Cod Liver Oil
A Note on Seafood
Fish and shellfish have played an enormous role in traditional diets cross-globally; however threats of overfishing, polluted waters and damaged the sustainability of these foods. Visit Seafood Watch for more information about making sustainable choices in your seafood consumption.
Cod liver oil, especially fermented cod liver oil (see sources) is also a potent source of naturally occurring vitamin D as well as pre-formed vitamin A. Just 1 teaspoon of high vitamin fermented cod liver oil contains approximately 1950 IU of vitamin D – though the vitamin content may vary slightly from batch to batch since a good cod liver oil will not be augmented by potentially toxic synthetic additives.
Cold-water, Oily Fish
Oily fish provide an excellent food-based source of vitamin D. A 3-oz portion of sardines provide approximately 228 IU vitamin D. Herring, like other oily fish, is an excellent source of vitamin D with one 3-oz portion providing approximately 576 IU vitamin D. 100 grams of wild-caught, canned salmon with bones provides 763 IU vitamin D. 3 ounces of mackerel sashimi will provide approximately 300 IU of vitamin D.
While pickled herring may take some getting used too, other oily fish can be served in a variety of ways. Consider sardines on crackers or in a salad, and canned salmon can be easily served in a chowder or in my favorite version as salmon cakes with homemade wasabi mayonnaise.
Oysters on the Half Shell
Oysters are nutritional powerhouses, offering zinc, vitamin B12 and iron in addition to 269 IU vitamin D. While some folks prefer their oysters naked, dressing them with vinegar, relishes or even Moroccan Preserved Lemon can be a nice change of pace.
Pastured Egg Yolk
Pastured egg yolk, like pastured lard, offers more vitamin D than an egg from a conventionally raised hen; however, its a small amount by comparison to pastured lard and oily fish.
Caviar & Roe
While you’re at the sushi bar enjoying your vitamin D-packed mackerel sashimi, consider adding an order of ikura or other roe. Fish roe, like concentrated bubbles of nutrients, offer a fair amount of vitamin D as well as other fat-soluble nutrients. Roe can also be served over pasta, in dips or on blini in the Russian style.