The Importance of Vitamin D: Best Food Sources for a Healthy Diet

This video discusses the importance of vitamin D and explores the best ways to obtain it through diet. The video emphasizes that vitamin D is actually a hormone and can be synthesized by the body through sun exposure. However, it also emphasizes the need for healthy organs, such as the liver and kidneys, to process and convert vitamin D into its active form. The video discusses the potential deficiencies of vitamin D and the associated health risks. It also provides a list of the top 10 foods that are rich in vitamin D, including butter, beef liver, eggs, mushrooms, and fatty fish. The video concludes by recommending cod liver oil as an easily accessible and efficient way to supplement vitamin D intake.

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Key Insights:

  • Vitamin D is actually a hormone, not a vitamin, because our bodies can make it ourselves.
  • The main source of vitamin D is sunlight, as our skin can produce it when exposed to ultraviolet light.
  • Vitamin D helps with calcium metabolism and is involved in various bodily functions, including bone health, muscle tone, nervous system signaling, and immune activation.
  • A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to conditions like rickets, as well as increased risks of cancer, heart disease, obesity, and depression.
  • Factors like skin color, sun exposure, and overall health can impact the body’s ability to produce and utilize vitamin D effectively.
  • The best food sources of vitamin D include butter, beef short ribs, eggs, lean fish (like cod or flounder), fatty fish (like salmon or mackerel), mushrooms exposed to UV light, and cod liver oil.
  • Cod liver oil is a convenient and affordable supplement for ensuring sufficient vitamin D intake.
  • Supplementation with synthetic vitamin D may not be as effective as obtaining it from natural food sources.
  • It is important to strike a balance between getting enough sun exposure for vitamin D production and taking precautions to avoid sunburn and skin damage.
  • Eating real, whole foods and maintaining good digestion supports the proper absorption and utilization of vitamin D.


Hello health champions, today I want to talk about vitamin D, the best ways to get it into your body, and the top 10 foods to get it through diets. Coming right up!

Hey, I’m Dr. Ekberg, a holistic doctor and a former Olympic decathlete. If you want to truly master health by understanding how the body really works, make sure you subscribe and hit that notification bell so you don’t miss anything.

Ironically, the first thing we have to know about vitamin D is that it’s not a vitamin, it’s actually a hormone, because we can make it ourselves. A vitamin, by definition, is something that has to be obtained through the diet. Like most hormones, we need it in very tiny amounts, measured in micrograms or international units. One microgram is 40 international units of vitamin D. The hallmark of a deficiency is called rickets. Rickets is a softening of the bone, a malformation of bones, when the calcium can’t get deposited because we don’t have enough vitamin D. The bones get soft, crooked, and misshapen.

The normal way we make vitamin D, that we don’t get it through the diet, is from exposure to the Sun. It’s called the sunshine vitamin, and we are supposed to make enough just from a little bit of sun exposure. We can also get it through the diet, and when we do, it comes in two forms. One is called vitamin D2, also known as ergocalciferol, and the other one is D3, called cholecalciferol. If you notice how close this name is to cholesterol, that gives you a hint of what the building block is. We use cholesterol to manufacture cholecalciferol. So, vitamin D3 is the form that humans and animals make, while vitamin D2 is the form that plants make. In either case, vitamin D is made from ultraviolet light. So, when they manufacture it synthetically, they actually irradiate it. If they make D2 from a plant source, they irradiate it. And if they make it from an animal source, they irradiate grease from lamb’s wool.

But sunlight isn’t all we need. We also need healthy organs. So, first, the sun hits the skin. The skin makes cholecalciferol or vitamin D3, but we’re not done. Then the D3 has to get to the liver and be processed into calcidiol. And we’re still not done because the kidney has to finish the process and turn it into calcitriol, which is the final product. So, if we have a fatty liver or some kidney disease, then we can’t complete this process and we don’t get the final product of vitamin D that we actually use called calcitriol.

Another thing that’s good to know is that because vitamin D is fat-soluble, it can be stored, unlike vitamin C and vitamin B, which are water-soluble and need to be replenished more frequently. Vitamin D, we can have a store for weeks and months. We don’t have to get it every day. We can build up a reservoir and be fine through the winter, for example.

So, why is vitamin D so important? What does it do? Well, it’s involved in calcium metabolism, and calcium is one of the most important minerals in the body, not just for bones, but it also does a thousand different things as signaling molecules. Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from your digestive tract and also monitors how the kidneys excrete it. So, it helps bring it in and manage how it’s excreted. It also works with calcitonin, which is the parathyroid hormone. The parathyroid hormone puts calcium in the bone and then reduces and pulls calcium out of the bone into the bloodstream. So, that’s a constant exchange. In the short term, it’s much more important to have the proper level of calcium in the blood than to have it in the bone because the bone is important for years to come.

So, we have a stable skeleton when we don’t have the proper blood calcium levels. Then we can’t make it through the next few minutes. Calcium and vitamin D work together, and vitamin D manages and works together to produce proper muscle tone and proper signaling in the nervous system. It is also an immune activator. These are the basic underlying mechanisms, and that’s why vitamin D and calcium are so crucial because these mechanisms participate in virtually everything that happens in your body. Every time they do some new research, they find more ways that vitamin D is important. They find that low levels of vitamin D are associated with higher levels of cancer, higher levels of heart disease, higher levels of fatigue, more obesity, and more depression. The more they look, the more they find that vitamin D is crucial. It’s almost like we don’t have to ask what’s vitamin D involved with, but rather, is there anything that it doesn’t do? Is there any function where it’s not involved? And they pretty much haven’t really found anything. That’s why there’s so much talk recently about vitamin D, and one of the most important issues that is very current is the immune issues. Vitamin C and vitamin D are both incredibly important for the immune system to function properly.

So, what about deficiencies? Are they common? Well, a deficiency is classified as having less than 20 nanograms, which is 20 billionths of a gram per milliliter of blood. They found that, in a study in the U.S., 42% of Caucasians were deficient. That’s fair-skinned people who have an easy time making vitamin D from the Sun. They’re the best at making it. Hispanics have a little bit harder time making vitamin D, and 69% of them were deficient. African-Americans had over 80% of people deficient because the darker the skin, the more pigment you have, and the more it interferes with the vitamin D manufacture. So, while less than 20 nanograms is deficient, a normal or sufficient level is considered 30 to 50. Some people argue that higher is better, and they say that maybe we should be at 80 to 200 nanograms. But that would enhance things further, and I don’t subscribe to that opinion because even though deficient is a bad thing, that doesn’t mean that more than sufficient is better. It’s not like it’s supposed to do something. It’s just that the absence of it prevents the body from doing certain things. That’s not the same thing as saying that more is always better. In fact, with vitamin D, you can get toxicity effects. It is possible to have toxicity. You have to work at it pretty hard, but it is possible. To get up in the 80 to 100 nanogram range is typically only possible through heavy supplementation.

So, here’s what it typically looks like if you get it in supplement form. The recommended daily intake used to be 200 international units (IU), and in 1997, they changed that to 400 IU for adults, and 600 IU for the elderly, because as you get older, you use it less efficiently and make it less efficiently.

But here’s the interesting question: If they added all that synthetic vitamin D to fortified foods like milk, orange juice, and cereals, and we get about 2,400 IU on average, how are all these people still deficient? Well, in my opinion, I think it’s because the synthetic vitamin D is not the same as what our body can use. Most of that fortification is also the D2 form, which is not as efficient, and our body isn’t really good at using that. But it’s not the only factor. The other mechanisms, the other pathways in the body that utilize and put things together, also play a role. So, any part that’s not working, the less healthy we get overall, the less efficiently we’re going to be using the vitamin D as well.

I had a patient come in a couple of years ago. Her blood work showed that she was very deficient, under 20. Her medical doctor gave her 50,000 IU of synthetic vitamin D, and her levels hardly changed. They came up maybe one or two points. Then we put her on a program of whole food supplements, real food, and a very low dose of a natural vitamin D called Cataplex D. Within a few weeks, her levels were up to 58. So, a small amount of something that the body could actually use was much more potent than tens of thousands of units of synthetic vitamin D. So, I think it’s not just the number that matters, but it’s the quality and how well it fits into the bigger picture.

Now let’s go over the best food sources to get real, whole, natural vitamin D. It’s interesting that vitamin C is only available in plant food, while vitamin D is only available in animal food. There are virtually no exceptions to that rule, except for a couple of things we’ll mention. So, the best sources of vitamin D in food are:

1. Butter: Eating about 100 grams, or about three and a half ounces of butter, will give you 60 IU of vitamin D. A serving of three tablespoons would give you about 27 IU.

2. Beef short ribs: They provide about 27 IU per 100 grams. A serving of about six ounces would give you 41 IU.

3. Beef liver: It provides about 49 IU per 100 grams. To get the full 400 IU, you would have to eat about three pounds and eight ounces of liver.

4. Eggs: Two eggs, or about 100 grams, provide 80 IU of vitamin D. To get the full 400 IU, you would have to eat about ten eggs.

5. Chanterelle mushrooms: They are one of the very few sources of vitamin D in the plant kingdom. These mushrooms contain 212 IU per 100 grams. To get the full 400 IU, you would need to eat about half a pound of chanterelle mushrooms.

6. Pork spareribs: The fat in pork spareribs contains vitamin D. About 100 grams provides 88 IU. To get the full 400 IU, you would have to eat about one pound of spareribs.

7. Lean fish: Cod, flounder, sole, and white fish provide about 100 to 400 IU per 100 grams. A six-ounce serving would give you 150 to 600 IU.

8. Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, and eel contain even higher levels of vitamin D. Salmon provides about 400 IU and eel provides about 1000 IU per 100 grams. A six-ounce serving of salmon would give you 400 IU, and a six-ounce serving of eel would give you 1000 IU.

9. Mushrooms with UV light exposure: If you shine UV light on mushrooms, they start producing vitamin D. They make about 1000 IU per 100 grams. To get the full 400 IU, you would need to eat about 1.5 ounces of UV-exposed mushrooms.

10. Cod liver oil: This is the best way to get all your vitamin D in a simple way. A three and a half ounce serving provides 10,000 IU of vitamin D. A tablespoon would give you 1,500 IU, and a little under a teaspoon would supply 400 IU.

So, these are the best food sources to get vitamin D. It is important to note that it may be difficult to consume enough of these foods to meet your daily vitamin D needs. Therefore, if you do not get enough sun exposure or do not regularly eat fish, cod liver oil is a good supplement option. It is easy to find and provides an adequate amount of vitamin D. Still, the best way to get vitamin D is from the sun, so moderate sun exposure is recommended.

If you enjoyed this video, make sure you check out my other videos. Thank you so much for watching, and I’ll see you in the next video.