It’s called the sunshine vitamin because you can make it when you are in the sun. A general recommendation is 15 minutes of sun exposure three times per week.

Vitamin D is different from all other nutrients in that the body can synthesize it with the help of sunlight from a precursor that the body makes from cholesterol. Technically, vitamin D is not a vitamin but actually a steroid hormone that targets over 2,000 genes in the body. Some roles of vitamin D include bone growth, calcium balance, immunity, insulin secretion, blood pressure regulation and cell differentiation — the growth of specialized cells which decreases the likelihood of forming cancerous cells.

Research is now showing an association between vitamin D deficiency and a variety of cancers including colon, breast and prostate cancer. There is also an association between living at higher latitude levels and an increased prevalence of auto-immune diseases such as Type 1 Diabetes (formerly juvenile onset), multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis.

The DRI (Dietary Recommended Intake) of vitamin D for adults is 400 IU (International Units) or 100 mcg (micrograms) per day. The upper safe limit is 2,000 IU or 500 mcg.

Best food sources include cod liver oil. One tablespoon provides 1,360 IU. One teaspoon, maybe a little easier to swallow, is 453 IU. Three ounces of sockeye salmon has 530 IU. Fatty fish, in general, are great sources of vitamin D. Choose salmon, mackerel, sardines, cod and fatty tuna.

Eggs are another honorable source with 20 IU found in the yolk. Buy Omega-3 rich eggs and eat the yolk for vitamin D and Omega-3s plus lecithin and vitamin A. I also discovered another underrated source of D-Mushrooms. While analyzing my frittata recipe, I found that one ounce of dried or 1/2 pound of fresh (about 3 cups) shiitake mushrooms contains your entire daily value or RDI for vitamin D, 400 IU.

Now walk to the store on a sunny day to buy your ingredients and enjoy these recipes. You’ll get your vitamin D one way or another.

Elizabeth is a registered dietitian and a certified holistic chef. She can be reached at

Mushroom & Vegetable Frittata

Prep time 15 minutes. Cook time 30 minutes

6 whole Omega-3 rich eggs, plus 8 egg whites from any organic eggs

1/4 cup plain, almond milk

1 tbs. flour (brown rice, millet, oat)

1/2 tsp. baking powder (aluminum free, Rumford)

1/4 cup filtered water

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 red pepper, chopped

1 carrot, peeled and shredded

3 cups shiitake mushrooms, chopped or 1 ounce dry, rehydrated and chopped

4 cups raw spinach

1 cup fresh, chopped herbs (parsley, basil, sage)

Dash of sea salt and fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Use a large skillet. If the skillet has a plastic handle, wrap the handle in foil to protect it from the heat when you place it in the oven. On the stove top, heat the skillet on medium heat. Add the water and the vegetables in order, and cook until soft. In a bowl, combine the eggs, flour, baking powder plus salt and pepper and blend with a fork. Pour egg mixture over the vegetables in the skillet. Sprinkle with fresh herbs. Bake at 300 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes. Check at 20 minutes and shake to see if the center has set. This is also the time to add rice or almond cheese or a sprinkle of nutritional yeast for that cheesy flavor. When frittata is done, remove from the oven and slice into six pieces. Per serving: 195 calories (more if you add cheese), 7g fat (1:3 omega-6 to omega-3 fats, perfect ratio), 57% DV for Vitamin D (228 IU), 59% DV Vitamin A, 85% DV Vitamin C, 10% DV Vitamin E, 64% DV Selenium,10-30% DV for every other vitamin and mineral. Cost $1.56 per serving.

Mushroom Barley Soup

Prep time 15 minutes. Cook time 50 minutes.

1/2 cup pearl barley

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, small dice

3 cups (1/2 pound) crimini or shiitake mushrooms

1/2 cup tawny port or any sweet red wine

6 cups +1 Tablespoon vegetable or beef broth

1tbs. fresh parsley, chopped

1 tbs. fresh thyme

1/2 tbs. fresh sage

Sea salt & pepper to taste

Rinse & soak barley in warm water while preparing the ingredients. Heat one tablespoon broth in medium soup pot. Sauté onion, garlic and carrots over medium heat. Add mushrooms and sauté. Add drained barley and port and cook two minutes. Add rest of the broth. Bring to a boil on high heat. Then reduce to low heat and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the carrots and barley are tender. Add herbs, salt & pepper at the end, just before serving. Cost $1 per cup.

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