Why Do We Need Vitamin D? And Where Do We Get It?

If you read my Holiday Gift Guide, you already saw that I am a huge fan of the Nordic Naturals EPA and DHA supplement, Algae Omega, a superb alternative to fish oil. I get a lot of questions about what supplements I use, so I thought I’d share a two of my essentials – Vitamin D and Omega 3, in the form of EPA and DHA. When it comes to supplements, I try to get most of my essential nutrients from food, but a few that are so critical (and sometimes difficult to get from food), that I chose to supplement.

I was not happy when I got my vitamin D results from Canary Club (through ZRT Labs), the administrator of minimally invasive, blood diagnostic tests, that you can conveniently do in the comfort of your own home. This was 3 months ago.

My Vitamin D3 was lousy – 30.

And while some doctors may say that I am ok since then “normal” range is 32-100 ng/ml, I don’t want to be just “ok”.  The ideal range is actually 50-80 ng/ml, so I was quite off.

What was I doing wrong?

I was taking 1000 I.U. of vitamin D3 daily. My test made we wonder if the cheap D3 capsules I was taking every morning were a waste of money. They were doing something, but clearly, not enough. This goes to show you that the quality of your supplement is very important!

Just in time, Nordic Naturals created a plant-based, liquid vitamin D supplement, and sent it to me to give it try. I started using this new liquid D3 as soon as I got it into my hot little hands. Since it’s liquid, I top off my smoothie with a serving of it every morning.

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First of all, I trust the quality. Second, the new liquid D3 is in its natural form – cholecalciferol – which is better absorbed and utilized by the body. I plan on re-testing my levels again in about a month to see if this new supplement made a difference in my vitamin D3 levels.

But why do we need to supplement with vitamin D? And why can’t we just get it from our food or the sun?

Vitamin D has been closely studied for years. In addition to mood disorders, often casually labeled as the “winter blues”, there are serious implications of a vitamin D deficiency, including, cardiovascular disease, stroke, osteoporosis, osteomalacia, cancer, and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and diabetes (types 1 and 2).  If you’re curious about the research, check out this source for review: Holick MF. NEJM 357: 266-281, 2007.

Lack of adequate sunlight and the age and type of your skin may also contribute to low levels of vitamin D.

Most of us think that if we go outside for 20 minutes during our lunch hour, we will be ok. But this is simply not the case.

Unless you walk around naked in the sun without sunscreen for 15-20 minutes every day, you are probably not getting enough vitamin D.

You can increase your levels by eating more fish (very often and raw), exposing the skin to sunshine without sunscreen during the mid-day for 15-20 minutes, or using a vitamin D supplement. I feel better when I have enough vitamin D, and see no reason not to add a good quality, 3rd-party tested vitamin D supplement to my diet.

Vegetarian or not, sun-lover or not, if you’ve been feeling tired, drained, fatigued, have experienced brain fog, or just feeling a general sense of “blah-ness”, and have not been proactive about your vitamin D levels, it might be a sign that you need a little D3 love in your life.

Now Let’s Get Fatty 

There is a ton of research that supports the importance of essential fatty acids (EFAs). As you may know, there are two families of EFAs – omega 6 and omega 3.

You’ve heard the talk about omega 3s. The omega 3s we consume through food and supplements are incorporated into our cell membranes where they impact every biological process in the body. After doing a lot of research, it is my opinion (and my opinion only) that without the sufficient intake of omega 3 essential fatty acids, cells are unable to function properly. When omega 3s and omega 6s are consumed in balance, they work together to keep the body healthy. The modern diet (and here I’m talking about a lot of processed food, low quality oils, gluten and sweats) lacks the proper balance of omega 6s to omega 3s.

For me personally, this balance is off because I eat lots of nuts – almonds, cashews, walnuts (which are the least balanced of the three).  I have these healthy fats as a snack, and use products derived from them, such as cashews cheese and almond milk. All is good and well, but I am moderately tipping the scale toward omega 6s since nuts contain more omega 6s than 3s.

Although my source of omega 6 fatty acids are on the healthier side, much of omega 6 in the western diet is derived from refined vegetable oils like, soy, or corn canola. Omega 3s are found in much higher concentrations in  wild-caught, cold-water, and fatty fish. If you are a vegetarian or vegan, getting those omega 3s will be especially difficult. And if you are not a vegetarian, and you cook your fish, you are most likely depleting it of a lot of those healthy fats, or even worse, transforming them to a toxins at high heat.

This is why I love to supplement with a high quality EPA/DHA blend. While most vegetarian algae oil on the market is rich in DHA, the Nordic Naturals brand is uniquely formulated to have a significant number of EPA as well. The level and balance of EPA/DHA in per serving, helps your body support your heart health, mood, immunity and the body’s natural anti-inflammatory response.  Here’s a general breakdown of EPA and DHA.

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 500 mg combined EPA and DHA every day is recommended for general health. Personally, I like Nordic Naturals Algae Omega because it’s made exclusively from micro algae, which is the original source of marine omega 3-s, for a 100% vegetarian combination of EPA and DHA, and has the recommend EPA/DHA ratio. It also comes both capsules and oil form.

Cheers to getting, fatty 😉

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    My name is Maria and I live in California. I love teaching high-energy Pilates classes, going on long runs, and making connections with all of you! Hope you find a few useful articles, fitness tips, and recipes while you're here.

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