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The Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin, it acts as a hormone in the body. It's more difficult to obtain adequate vitamin D from food, which is why sunshine is important as it taking a supplement.
May 23, 2017 | Joy McCarthy

You might guess what my latest post is all about based on the photo above... any guesses? Yep! Sunshine vitamin D. 

If you've been following Joyous Health for a while, you'll know that I'm an advocate of getting nutrition from as many whole colourful foods as possible! The reality is that our soil just isn't as rich in vitamins and minerals as it used to be. That's not to say your carrot is completely void of nutrients. But we should be aware of the fact that the modern agricultural methods we use today alongside the rapidly growing rate of pesticide usage is naturally going to leave us with nutritional gaps in our diet. This is why supplementing with certain vitamins and nutrients is so important!

Now the goal isn't to fully rely on supplements and ignore the nutrition we can get from our diet, but to be mindful of the key nutrients that are important to supplement. I would agree with Dr. Mark Hyman in saying that a fish oil, multivitamin and vitamin D are the most important supplements to be taking on the daily (I would add probiotics in there too!) Since I haven't given as much love and attention to Vitamin D on Joyous Health so far, I'm going to emphasize the importance of vitamin D and all of the joyous things it does for the body!

And in case you're wondering here's the full round-up of supplements I'm taking right now. 

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is actually a hormone rather than a vitamin. This is because are vitamin D receptors on pretty much every tissue in the human body, which is why it's more hormone-like than a vitamin. Some actually refer to it as "hormone D", but we'll keep it as vitamin D around here! Unlike most nutrients, it's actually difficult to get an adequate amount of vitamin D from food, but the good thing is that our body has the ability to manufacture vitamin D. As you may already know, vitamin D is commonly referred to as the "sunshine vitamin" simply because it is the best way to get vitamin D in our diet! The body can get it during exposure to sunlight; 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin absorbs UVB radiation and gets converted to previtamin D3 which in turn synthesizes into vitamin D3

Due to the lack of sun here in Canada from November-May, a lot of people end up walking around deficient in this vital nutrient.

It's now even being said that a mother's vitamin D status (a deficiency) is linked to childhood eczema! I talk about the role of vitamin D and eczema in my Eczema Healing Guide as one of the causes of eczema, emphasizing the need to supplement with vitamin D even more (keep reading for my recommendations at the end of the post!)

What Does Vitamin D Do For The Body?

It's estimated 1 billion people worldwide across all ethnicities and age groups have a vitamin D deficiency. This statistic is from 2012, meaning that number has likely increased. This is a scary reality given how many roles vitamin D has in our body.

Vitamin D has great importance in the body

It is important for the following:

  • Reducing depression
  • Regulating mood
  • Supporting weight loss
  • Promoting bone growth and strength
  • Regulating and supporting immunity 
  • Preventing disease and illness
  • Protecting against the development of autoimmune diseases (i.e. Crohn's, multiple sclerosis)
  • Preventing viral or bacterial upper respiratory infections 
  • Reducing inflammation in the body
  • Strengthening the barrier of the skin which can help prevent infection
  • Preventing childhood eczema 

All of these things can start to arise simply from a deficiency in Vitamin D which can come about from not getting enough Vitamin D in your diet (although it's difficult to get an adequate source from food alone), not getting enough sunshine and not supplementing with Vitamin D or not supplementing enough Vitamin D. That's right! You may be supplementing with Vitamin D but you may not be supplementing with the amount you need. What's typically listed on a Vitamin D supplement is the amount that is deemed to be safe according to Health Canada or the FDA, however that doesn't mean it's necessarily enough to thrive and avoid the result of vitamin D deficiencies. To avoid the following nutritional deficiencies, you'll want to make sure you're supplementing with an adequate amount of vitamin D which I'll touch upon shortly.

Signs of Nutritional Deficiencies 

Now that we know all of the things vitamin D does for us in the body, it's obvious that a deficiency of vitamin D would come with the opposite effect of all of the things I listed above, along with a string of signs and symptoms, including:

  • Skin conditions, including Psoriasis or Eczema
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Depression
  • Bone loss
  • Hair loss
  • Increased frequency of sickness 
  • Insomnia
  • Autoimmune Diseases
  • High blood pressure
  • Multiple Sclerosis

The sad thing is that a lot of people are actually walking around with these signs and symptoms without connecting the dots that vitamin D may be a contributing factor. 

How much Vitamin D should you be supplementing?

As I mentioned previously, in most cases, the recommended dosage of vitamin D on a supplement bottle is not an adequate amount. While the recommended dosage varies depending on age, and life stage (for example, pregnancy) Health Canada has a helpful chart here, but remember these amounts are not for optimal wellness. I recommend you work with your health care practitioner before making any changes as it might be important to test your vitamin D levels first before determining how much you need to supplement with on a daily basis.

Ideally, your blood level of vitamin D (25 OH D) should be around 50-60ng/ml.

Can you take too much? Yep! You sure can. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient which means it's not as easily eliminated as water-soluble B-complex vitamins or vitamin C. Which is why testing is a wise idea. In Ontario, it's approximately $36 to have your vitamin D checked because it's not covered by OHIP and it's worth it!

What to look for in a Vitamin D supplement

Vitamin D3 is the most active and absorbable form of vitamin D, which you'll want to look for when searching out for a high-quality supplement. Vitamin D3 is typically derived from sheep's lanolin (a waxy substance secreted by the glands found in sheep's skin) or from fish oil. Avoid vitamin D2 (even if you're vegan) because it's synthetic or derived from GMO soy with poor absorption. If you are looking for a reliable vegan vitamin D supplement, AOR's Vegan Vitamin D3 is a great option as it's created from sustainably sourced non-GMO lichen which is a plant-like substance made up of symbiotic algae and fungi. You'll also want to make sure it's void of any fillers, binders and artificial colours too - ick! A couple of my favourite and trusted non-vegan vitamin D supplements include Genestra's D-mulsion 1000 and Natural Factors Vitamin D3

The Best Food Sources Of Vitamin D

While it's tricky to get the required amount of Vitamin D we need from food, every little bit counts! The beauty of getting our nutrients from whole foods is that food doesn't contain nutrients in isolation, but a diverse set of nutrients that all work synergistically together to help support nutrient absorption. I've highlighted a few great food sources of vitamin D below including my favourite ways to make use of them!

1. Salmon

I eat fish (including salmon) about 2-3 times a week. There are simply too many benefits to reap from its healthy fat composition not to! In about 3oz of salmon, you can get up to 400IU. One of my favourite ways to enjoy salmon is in my Salmon Quinoa Cakes with Lemon Tahini Sauce which you can find in my newest book, Joyous Detox!

2. Eggs

In one egg, you're looking at about 40+IU of vitamin D, which is on the lower side in comparison to the thousands of IUs we need in a day, but every little bit helps. Interestingly enough, eggs from pasture-raised chickens (my preferred choice) that roam outside in the sunlight are 3-4 times higher in vitamin D than conventionally grown eggs! Don't skimp on the yolk either (or ever!) as that's where the majority of fat, vitamins (all of the vitamin D), and minerals are found in eggs. Enjoy eggs in my Guacamole Deviled Eggs or my Mini Sweet Potato Frittatas!

3. Mushrooms 

Did you know mushrooms are one of the only plant-derived sources of vitamin D? This is because mushrooms can synthesize vitamin D much like humans can when exposed to UV light. Some people even recommend putting your mushrooms outside exposed to the UV light for up to 2 days to increase its vitamin D content. For this reason, it's difficult to say how much vitamin D you can actually get from mushrooms as it varies from as little as 100IU in 100 grams to 46,000IU! Enjoy mushrooms in my Wild Mushroom Soup

If you can do anything for your health today, go out and get yourself a high-quality vitamin D supplement and get some sunshine on your beautiful face. The benefits are absolutely endless and you'll likely start feeling the effects of it immediately.

What's one of the main benefits you've noticed since including Vitamin D in your health regime?

Bev Woodman   •   May 26, 2017

We moved to Canada (Alberta) nearly 10 years ago from the UK and my husband was on blood pressure pills. His Dr. here recommended a blood test including checking Vitamin D levels and recommended he take 2000 IU's of vitamin D morning and night from the Grey Cup to the Stanley Cup and then reduce it to just 2000 IU a day basically in the summer months. Within a short period of time he was off his BP medication and remained off the pills until he had an accident last year when a tree fell on him. The trauma caused his BP to spike and he was put back on the pills. He is hoping to wean himself off them this summer.

Rachel Molenda   •   May 29, 2017

Myrna   •   May 26, 2017

Your Salmon Quinoa Cakes have become a favorite for burger night in our household. They keep well and taste great the next day. :) Myrna

Rachel Molenda   •   May 29, 2017

Karen   •   May 26, 2017

Hi Joy! Great article. After suffering from depression, I know all too well how important it is. I supplement throughout the winter and test my levels. I must say though that there's just something about the actual sunshine that brings me back to life. I literally feel a boost of energy after exposing myself for 10-15 minutes. I also feel more relaxed and sleep better after having sunlight exposure.

Rachel Molenda   •   May 29, 2017

Lynn   •   May 31, 2017

Are you familiar with new roots vitamin D drops? The only other ingredient appears to be Medium-chain triglycerides. Other brands seem to have different oil. Is one better than another ? It can be very confusing! Thanks

Rachel Molenda   •   June 1, 2017

Julie   •   June 5, 2017

Is it true wearing sunscreen blocks the bodies ability to soak up vitamin D?

Rachel Molenda   •   June 6, 2017

Lori   •   April 11, 2018

Is there a brand of vitamin D3 you would recommend for children? I was considering the U-Cubes Calcium and D3 Gummies for my kids.

Rachel Molenda   •   April 12, 2018

Elaine   •   June 21, 2019

Hi there! Now that Vienna is older, do you still give her the Vitamin D drops or did you switch to a new one? Also, do you give her a multivitamin and probiotic daily? Can you recommend some for both? Thanks!

Joy McCarthy   •   June 21, 2019

Elaine   •   June 21, 2019

Thank you so much!! ;)

Elaine   •   June 28, 2019
Joy McCarthy   •   June 28, 2019

Elaine R.   •   June 28, 2019

Hi! I tried purchasing the omega3 kids vitamin D but it’s not available to the US. Do you recommend another omega with vitamins D?

Joy McCarthy   •   June 28, 2019

Riham Hanna   •   January 3, 2020

Hi there! Now that Vienna is older, do you still give her the Vitamin D drops or did you switch to a new one?

Joy McCarthy   •   January 6, 2020

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