Vitamin D DanDy

Photo by: Barry Bridges

Are you feeling unexcited about your recent lottery win, or less energized about the energizing aspects of your life? If so, it may be time to load up on vitamin D. New stats show that 70% of Europeans have low Vitamin D levels, and I was reminded of this potential as I gazed out my window this morning at a snow-covered yard and a sun-deficient sky. Also known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is produced when ultraviolet (UV) rays from sunlight strike your skin. It’s found naturally in very few foods, added to some foods, and also available as a supplement.

SPF 8 and glass windows block vitamin D’s synthesis, darker skin produces less vitamin D with sunlight exposure, and cloud cover and shade reduce UV rays by about half, which is why it’s no surprise that many, many “I used to have energy” folks are coming up short this time of year. If you live at 42 degrees north latitude (I’m talking to you, northern Cali to Boston!), UV energy is insufficient from November through February. Once summer hits, it’s crucial to soak up a little bit of sun to refuel your tank.

How much do you need?
Just 5-30 minutes of summer sun from 10 AM – 3 PM twice a week to your face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen will do the trick. You make about 20,000 International Units (IU’s) with just 20 minutes of summer sun. If you go the supplement route—necessary in winter months—the recommended intake is 400-1000 IU’s per day. However, some doctors and researchers recommend 2,000-4,000 IU’s daily for people with normal levels, and 5,000-10,000 IU’s daily for people with below normal levels. Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol, a synthetic form of D) is less bioavailable than Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol, animal-derived, and the kind that the sun makes in your skin), which means you need more D2 than D3 to increase your blood levels of Vitamin D when sunshine isn’t around.

Why is D so essential?
Bones need it for calcium absorption, and it’s also critical for neuromuscular and immune function, reduction of inflammation, and may be helpful in preventing cancer of the breast, ovary, colon, and prostate, and improving mood, depression, and energy levels especially during winter-time months. Plus, vitamin D research is getting close to proving it’s key role in preventing and treating type 1 and type 2 diabetes, insulin resistance and glucose intolerance, heart disease, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, and other medical conditions.

Anything else?
A brand spankin’ new study just found that adequate Vitamin D could reduce inflammation and aging of the eyes as it improves retina health. Plus, previous studies have found Vitamin D deficiency to be a complication with liver disease and linked with increased risk of asthma among African American kids. Adequate Vitamin D levels are crucial for cancer prevention and survival, and are even pointing to increased survival among elderly women. For more info on D facts and figures, check here.

Where to Get It in the Winter
Many foods are fortified with Vitamin D, and say so on the label: Super sources are non-dairy milks including Earth Balance Soymilk which contains more Vitamin D than other non-dairy milks (120 IU’s per cup compared to 100 IU’s per cup). Non-dairy milks are also fortified with Calcium, Vitamin A, and Vitamin B12.

So where do you get your D? Time for a sunny vacation perhaps?

Thanksgiving Countdown: Sesame Greens

Sesame Greens from Skinny Dish!

Looking for a fatback-free (and back-fat free) greens dish to go with your big meal next Thursday? Here’s my FAVORITE, straight out of Skinny Dish! Stay tuned this weekend for more stellar Thanksgiving recipes your body will thank you for. (And don’t forget the incredible pumpkin pie from last month…)

Makes 4 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes

Dark leafy greens such as mustard greens, turnip greens, and collards are incredible sources of calcium with double the absorption of dairy calcium. And with the Popeye powers associated with eating dark greens, this recipe couldn’t be an easier or tastier way to energize you. Need an extra kick? Enjoy a double serving for just 175 calories!

½ cup filtered water
2 tsp toasted sesame oil
½ bag (5 oz) Prewashed and Rinsed Shredded Carrots, or 2 medium carrots, shredded or cut into thin strips
1 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips (preferably organic)
1 (16-oz) bag Trader Joe’s Southern Greens Blend, or 1 bunch kale, collards, or other dark leafy green, ripped into pieces
1 Tbsp brown rice vinegar
2 tsp sesame seeds
3 Tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce

1 In a large pot, steam carrots and red bell pepper in water and sesame oil over medium-high heat, about 2 minutes. Add greens, rice vinegar, and sesame seeds and cover, continuing to steam for another 5 minutes until greens are tender. Remove from heat.

2 Mix through using a pasta grabber or tongs. Just prior to serving, add soy sauce—it will turn the greens from bright to blah if it sits on them too long.

3 Store Leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Per Serving: 88 calories, 3 g total fat, 0.5 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 403.5 mg sodium, 11 g carbohydrates, 4.5 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 4 g protein, 113% vitamin A, 99% vitamin C, 18% calcium, 13% iron

*Alternate option: Reserve the sesame seeds and top each serving with ½ tsp.

Gluten-Free: Use tamari instead of soy sauce

Harvard Revises USDA’s “MyPlate”

Yay for Harvard! Noting that the USDA’s “MyPlate” is based on a mix of science and US agricultural interests (rather than just on science), the Harvard School of Public Health created a much easier to understand “Healthy Eating Plate“, which replaces dairy milk with water saying there’s little evidence that dairy protects bones, and even more evidence that dairy may be harmful to health, and also emphasizing healthier proteins and whole grains, and encouraging some healthy oils and exercise. Read more about both here.

Looks like the country is getting even closer to the plant-powered “Power Plate” created by PCRM! Go plants!