Wednesday, May 11, 2011

A Vitamin D Dilemma

I am amazed at the amount of people being diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiencies. Almost everyone I talk to lately has been told by a doctor or health professional they are lacking in this nutrient and need to take Vitamin D supplements.

Make no mistake about it: Vitamin D is absolutely essential. We need it to build strong bones and teeth. It helps keep our weight down, elevates our mood, and keeps cancer at bay. In recent research, Vitamin D has been shown to reduce the possibility of ovarian, breast, colon, and prostate cancer.

Scientists have proved that Vitamin D protects healthy cells and prevents the growth of cancerous cells.

Vitamin D sounds pretty essential to me........and we are deficient in it?

 Why?  And what does deficiency actually mean?

deficiency - lack: the state of needing something that is absent or unavailable.

Vitamin D is absent or unavailable? REALLY?!

First.... a little history lesson:

In the 1930s, a vitamin D deficiency disease called rickets was a major public health problem in the United States so a milk fortification program was implemented nearly eliminating this disorder. Currently, about 98% of the milk supply in the US is fortified with 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per quart. So.....if you drink milk every day, you're getting Vitamin D. whether you want it or not! Almost all the foods you eat are fortified with Vitamin D. Don't believe me? Check your labels.

Let's consider what life was like back in the 1930's.

The 1930’s were the years of the Depression. During these Depression years, many people were unemployed and poor. Kitchen appliances were few. Store bought bread was popular, especially Wonder Bread. (YUCK!!!!) However, Pepperidge Farm bread was better, but cost almost three times more. Wonder Bread to rescue! It was cheap and loaded with preservatives so it stayed fresher longer than homemade bread.

What was the typical American diet like back in the 1930's?

I thought people ate much healthier back then compared to how we eat now. But then I did a little research. Our country was in a depression but convenience and junk foods were at an all-time high!

Take a look at some American food brands introduced in the 1930s:


Birds Eye Frosted Foods
Wonder Bread (sliced)
Hostess Twinkies
Mott's Apple Sauce
Snickers candy bars (Mars, Inc.)


Beech-Nut Baby Foods
Bisquick (General Mills)
Ballard Biscuits (cardboard tube packed refrigerator dough)
Wyler's Bouillon Cubes
Hotel Bar Butter
Tootsie Pops


Frito Corn Chips
Skippy Peanut Butter
3 Musketeers (candy bar)
Heath bar (candy bar)


Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies
Campbell's Chicken Noodle and Cream of Mushroom soups
Kraft Miracle Whip
Tree-Sweet canned orange juice


Pet Evaporated Milk
Wild Cherry flavor Life Savers
Royal Crown Cola
Carvel (ice cream restaurants)
Ritz Crackers [Nabisco]


Adolph's Meat Tenderizer
Kit Kat bar
Five Flavors Life Savers
ReaLemon Lemon Juice


Goya brand foods
Betty Crocker (General Mills)
Hungry Jack pancake mix (Pillsbury)
Chunky Chocolate bar
Mars Almond Bar
Fifth Avenue (candy bar)
Orangina (soft drink)


Pepperidge Farm Bread
Kix cereal (General Mills)
Spam (Hormel)
Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner
Ragu Spaghetti Sauce
Sky Bar (New England Confectionery Co.)
Rolo (candy)
Smarties (Rowntree candy)


Lawry's Seasoned Salt
Mott's Apple Juice
Nescafe (instant coffee)


Lay's Potato Chips
Cream of Wheat (5 minute)
Dairy Queen (ice cream stores)

---SOURCES: The Food Chronology, James Trager [Owl Books:New York] 1995 & The Century in Food, Beverly Bundy [Collector's Press:Portland OR] 2002


Vitamin D deficiencies and rickets were first recognized back in the 1700's. In the 1930's, however, it was a major problem. How to solve the problem? Add Vitamin D to milk and make sure everyone drinks it!.

This is just a hunch but I can't help but wonder if all those canned, boxed, processed foods, factory made white bread, candy bars, soda, and snack foods had something to do with Vitamin D deficiencies. Back in the 1930's, unless you lived on a farm, grew your own food and raised your own animals, you were probably eating lots of canned and pre-packaged foods. They were cheap and a had long shelf life. How about now? Why bake brownies from scratch or cook a big pot of homemade pasta sauce when it's much easier to open boxes, bags and jars?

Today's Typical American Diet: Fast food, frozen meals, canned soup.....

How many of these convenience foods do you eat? Many of these foods are fortified with Vitamin D, by the way. We are all told that milk does a body good, so we drink it.

So how come some of us are still Vitamin D deficient?

Could it be that a diet of pre-packaged, processed JUNK food has something to do with our absorption of Vitamin D? Soda, candy, boxed macaroni and cheese?

I am no doctor but I'm just sayin.....

Can we get Vitamin D naturally? ABSOLUTELY!!

Do you know what the #1 Source of Vitamin D is? SUNLIGHT!!

I do believe the sun was around back in the 1930's!

Here are some other natural sources of Vitamin D:

Fatty fish, such as salmon, are the most common natural sources of vitamin D. There are also concentrated forms of olive oil that provide high levels of Vitamin D.

Here's a list of some natural fish sources:

o Catfish, (3 oz) provides 425 IU
o Salmon, cooked, (3.5 oz) provides 360 IU
o Mackerel, cooked, (3.5 oz), 345 IU
o Sardines, canned in oil, drained, (1.75 oz), 250 IU
o Tuna, canned in oil, (3.5 oz), 235 IU
o Eel, cooked, (3.5 oz), 200 IU

Wait!  There's more!

•A whole egg provides 20 IU
•Beef liver, cooked, (3.5 oz), provides 15 IU

Okay....Liver? YUCK!!!

•Fish liver oils, such as cod liver oil, 1 Tbs. (15 ml) provides 1360 IU

And......for those of us who are Vegans:

•Mushrooms are the only vegan source of vitamin D

Good thing I love mushrooms!!!

When was the last time you ate any of these foods?

Before you rush to the drug store to buy your bottle of Vitamin D, why not examine your diet and your lifestyle? Perhaps an unhealthy diet combined with a lack of good old fashioned sunshine is the real problem?

How do we solve this?

A good, well balanced diet with lean protein, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and a daily dose of sunshine is key. Also, look for foods that are fortified with Vitamin D:. breads, cereal, etc. Try to avoid pre-packaged, processed convenience foods as much as possible.

I am a vegan so I don't eat any animal products and I don't drink milk. I do eat some packaged foods like veggies burgers. I drink soy milk now and then. I just checked the ingredients listed on a container of soy milk. Vitamin D is in there!

I recently had my annual physical.  My Vitamin D levels are just fine!

Get outside and enjoy the sunshine! That's the best way to get plenty of Vitamin D. Be sure to use sun-block, of course. Take a walk, do some gardening, do yoga stretches on the lawn, or sit on the porch and sip your morning coffee. Side benefit: an end to those moody blues. You will feel fantastic!

Turn off the TV, the computer, the video games and insist your kids get outside, too. Play with them if you can: baseball, basketball, tag, hide and seek. Remember those games? Great fun and great exercise, too! I am always shocked at the number of kids who are perfectly content to exist for days without ever seeing the light of day! And shame on the parents who let this happen!

Okay.....I must say this, for your protection and mine:

If you have been diagnosed with a Vitamin D deficiency and your doctor has recommended that you take supplements; don't stop taking them. I would never, ever advise anyone to stop taking any kind of medication or supplements that your doctor considers essential to your well-being.

If you are a brand-new Vegan or Vegetarian and are afraid you are not getting enough of this important nutrient or you have been existing on a plant-based diet for years, you hate mushrooms, and you stay awake nights wondering if you are getting enough Vitamin D....relax - and take your Vitamin D.

If you live on remote site in Alaska and your job requires that you sit in front of a computer 24/7, eat only food from jars and cans, and you never, ever venture outdoors, by all means, take a Vitamin D supplement.

For the rest of us...... a healthy diet and a daily dose of sun is probably all we really need!

And this is my Daily Cyn.......


  1. Another excellent, important and timely article. Vitamin D deficiency is widespread and vegans must be doubly careful. If they aren't getting enough from the Sun and fortified foods they must be careful in selecting a supplement as most D's are derived from animal sources. There are vegan D supplements such as

  2. Agree and thanks for website info, Thomas..... :)