Our glorious life-giving sun is the activator of vitamin D. But the days of carefree basking in the sun have been clouded by fears of skin cancer –from the same UV rays that activate the vitamin D, whichs cientists say actually functions to prevent cancer! We apply sunscreen or stay indoors, protecting our skin at the expense of the “sunshine vitamin” we need.
Why is vitamin D essential?
Vitamins D2 and D3 are fat-soluble vitamins (chemically related to steroids) activated by ultraviolet light or found in foods and supplements.They are essential for normal bone and tooth structure. A deficiency, however, is linked to weak bones and teeth, as well as an increased risk for muscle weakness, multiple sclerosis, depression, 11 types of cancer, and other ailments.
Does vitamin D prevent cancer?
Cancer ranks No. 5 among the U.S. top 10 deadliest diseases. Is vitamin D deficiency a contributor? Yes, according to the late Cedric Garland, D.Ph., of the UCSD School of Medicine, Moores Cancer Center, who said:
Sunshine is not only not the primary cause of skin cancer, but the vitamin D produced in your body from sun exposure helps your body to stay ahead of cancerous cells.
Garland promoted early detection and treatment of low vitamin D levels in the blood as a “pre-actionary” approach to cancer prevention. His study claims adequate intake of vitamin D3 would “prevent 58,000 new cases of breast cancer and 49,000 new cases of colorectal cancer annually in the United States and Canada” and could prevent 75% of deaths from these cancers (video).
What are our sources for D?
You’re “kissed by the sun” in that its ultraviolet light upon your skin activates vitamin D by interfacing with a cholesterol in your skin called 7-dehydrocholesterol, which synthesizes into pre-vitamin D3, then instantly converts into vitamin D3. Moving in a conversion process through the liver and kidneys, it finally hits the bloodstream in its fully activated form.
Food provides low amounts of vitamin D. Plant-based sources narrow the field a bit, but are certainly available (see Veestro meals below). Because foods fail to supply enough D to maintain adequate levels in the blood, many foods are “fortified.”
Should we take supplements?
The food industry has addressed the vitamin D deficiency dilemma by fortifying foods, especially milk. But it’s still not enough. By not taking our greatest supplement – the sun –many rely on dietary supplements to get the recommended 600 IU per day.*
You’ll find a few plant-based supplements on the market including Vitashine Vitamin D3, derived from lichen (a small plant that grows on rocks and trees), by Vegetology. However, you have a good D2 option too: mushrooms.
Which plant-based foods provide D?
Ironically, we get vitamin D outdoors in the sunshine, while the best vitamin D food is a fungus that grows in the dark: mushrooms. But the key here is, they must be exposed to UV light to make vitamin D2. Look for these at the market or in the wild. Or, place freshly picked indoor-grown ones in the sun, gills up, for around 6 hours.
Fortified plant milks (almond, hemp, rice, soy), tofu, breakfast cereals, and orange juice will help, but mushrooms are your best source. That’s why you’ll find this earthy ingredient on the Veestro menu.
* Dosage does not apply to infants and to children through age 3.
Virginia Messina, “Meeting Vitamin D Needs on a Vegan Diet,” One Green Planet
Don Bennett, DAS, “Cancer Prevention and Vitamin D,” Health101.org