Guest Post by Heather Green
In colder months when the sun is shy and meek, we must take extra care to get adequate amounts of the sunshine vitamin. Although held in contempt for decades for contributing to skin cancer, sunshine is a natural, vital generator for vitamin D. Years of doctors pushing sunscreen has rendered most of us scared of the sun and, as a result, vitamin D-deficient.
Evidence is on the rise, however, that facing the sun without sunscreen for a moderate amount of time has great health benefits. In fact, the Harvard School of Public Health reports on the benefits of a daily dose, depending on age and ethnicity, between 1,000 and 2,000 IU (international units).
Dr. Andrew Weil, a respected integrative medicine practitioner says, “Someone…who has fair skin, burns easily and lives in Pennsylvania would be advised to spend 20-30 minutels in the sun with your arms and legs exposed (not your face) between the hours of 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. two to three times a week from Mary through May and September through October but only 15-20 minutes in July and August.” Someone with darker skin tones or in regions closer to the Equator would obviously require less time in the sun.
But how to avoid being vitamin D-deficient in winter, especially in areas like Great Britain and Ireland known for cold, dreary weather? Among other conditions, lacking vitamin D can get you into serious scares, like:
- Cancer, especially bone, breast, and prostate
- Adrenal malfunction
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Poor dental health
To make sure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D this winter, try the following in addition to walking outside every chance you get.
1. Fermented Cod Liver Oil
Most brands of fish oil found in health food stores—even respected varieties like Nordic Naturals—are not fermented. They are more heavily processed and may contain some synthetic vitamins A and D. Fermented cod liver oil is rich in vitamin D and has the added perk of being a cultured food. Although fermented types—like Green Pasture Fermented Cod Liver Oil—may be more expensive, you get more bang for your buck.
2. Oysters, roe, and oily fish
Sea life and fish—especially mackerel, salmon, and anchovies—are high in vitamin D. Unfortunately for both them and us, the oceans are becoming increasingly polluted, and we as consumers must be wary about heavy metals and mercury consumption. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a Seafood Watch list that can help you decide which fish are clean to eat. But be careful with this list, too! No farmed fish in the United States (or elsewhere, for that matter) is healthy to eat since, as with factory farmed land animals, fish farms are unsanitary. There are, however, some sustainably-run fish farms run by families that you might find at your local farmers’ market.
Eggs have some vitamin D, but be sure to get them from local organic farmers. Even so-called “free range” or “cage-free” chickens and eggs are raised in factory farms, where the end product is less nutrient dense and, sadly, not cruelty-free.
4. Lard from pasture-raised pigs
Yep. Lard. The other four-letter word. If you heard it on NPR, you know that lard got a bad name when Crisco and other vegetable-based fats were trying to scramble to the top of the market. Lard from healthy, happy pigs that bathed in the sun, rolled in mug, and foraged for food—not factory farm pigs—is high in vitamin D. Worried about cholesterol and fat? The Journal of American College of Nutrition published an article showing that saturated fats increase HDL, the “good” cholesterol and don’t affect LDL, the “bad” kind.
Although this befuddles most people born in generations since the baby boomers, it just proves a point that many natural health advocates push: never trust the marketing!
Heather Green is a mom, freelance writer, pet lover and the resident blogger for OnlineNursingDegrees.org, a free informational website offering tips and advice about online lpn degree programs.