Vitamin D has major health benefits. The best source of vitamin D is from the sun, but you also see many foods fortified with Vitamin D. Unfortunately, milk and other foods fortified with vitamin D often contain a synthetic form called ergocalciferol, or vitamin D2.
This synthetic form isn't as potent and doesn't last as long in your body. In fact, synthetic vitamin D becomes toxic in your body at far lower levels. Too much synthetic vitamin D2 may be linked to health problems. A number of studies link synthetic vitamin D2 to irritation of the lining of blood vessels.
In fortified milk, you may not know even how much you are getting. When Dr. Michael Holick and his colleagues at the Boston University School of Medicine tested samples of milk, they found 8 out of 10 samples contained either 20 percent less or 20 percent more vitamin D than the amount the label advertised -- and some of the milk tested contained no vitamin D at all.
In the video above, Dr. Levy gives an enlightening demonstration for why eating enriched foods isn't your best option.
It should be clear by now that fortified processed foods will never be equal to fresh whole foods. Similarly, synthetic vitamin supplements cannot compare to whole food supplements that contain naturally occurring vitamins in their unadulterated form.
With all the focus on getting enough of certain essential nutrients, many have been fooled into thinking they can supplement their way to good health, using fortified foods and vitamin supplements as an easy way out of having to make significant dietary changes.
More often than not, this simply will not lead to the healthy results you're looking for.
Whole Food Nutrients Vs. Synthetic, Fortified Foods
Most people who read this newsletter are probably familiar with the idea that whole foods are FAR better for you than refined, processed foods.
Although there are differing viewpoints on what kind of foods you should or should not be eating, as well as the ideal ratio of these foods, nearly everyone from all corners of the diet and nutrition world seem to agree on one thing: No matter which foods you choose and in what ratios you eat them, whole foods are better for you than refined foods.
The same goes for supplemental vitamins, whether they're in pill form or added to an enriched food product.
Just like processed foods, most commercial vitamins are synthetic vitamins that have been robbed of all of the extra accessory micronutrients that they naturally come with. In turn, like refined foods, they can create numerous problems and imbalances in your body if taken at high levels for long periods of time.
They can also act more like drugs in your body. At the very least, they won't be as beneficial as high quality food and food-based supplements are.
Fortified foods are essentially processed foods containing synthetic vitamins and minerals. There's nothing natural about them. And as the video above shows, certain additives cannot even be considered suitable for human consumption at all!
Who in their right mind would voluntarily consider feeding their child a pinch of iron filings for breakfast each morning?
I'd venture to guess that if you did, and someone found out about it, you'd have children's social services knocking on your door questioning the safety of your household.
And yet, many children and adults end up consuming metal shavings every day, courtesy of their fortified breakfast cereal.
The Best Sources of Iron
Rather than eating cereal enriched with toxic iron filings, your best bet is to make sure you're eating enough whole foods that are rich in bioavailable iron.
Good sources include:
Grass-fed red meats, such as beef, pork, lamb and veal
Green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, asparagus, broccoli, collard greens, kale, parley, cabbage, chard, watercress and Brussel sprouts
Most kinds of dried beans, including lima beans, kidney beans, pinto beans and black eye beans
Nuts and seeds like almonds, cashews, walnuts, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and hazelnuts
If you need to use a supplemental form of iron please avoid ferrous sulfate, which can be highly toxic. The safest form of iron that I know of is Feosol Carbonyl Iron, which is available at Costco or Target. There has never been a case of iron toxicity from accidental overdose of this type of iron. This is in stark contrast to all other iron supplements, which regularly kill children every year from accidental overdoses.
Keep in mind that although iron is found in many foods, some people do not absorb it well. Vitamin C helps your body absorb iron, while caffeine can hinder iron absorption. Again, you'll want to get your vitamin C from natural food sources rather than a supplement.
Why Eating Vitamin D Fortified Foods Won't Do You Much Good
As described in the article above, vitamin D fortified foods will not give you the vitamin D you need, for two reasons:
Most foods are fortified with synthetic vitamin D
Fortified foods may contain either more or less than stated on the label, so you don't know how much you're actually getting
In addition, although vitamin D2—the synthetic form of vitamin D—is less potent than the natural vitamin D3, it becomes toxic in your body at far lower levels than the natural form.
As with most nutrients and compounds, it is always best to get them from their natural sources, and vitamin D is no exception.
Interestingly, the only vitamin not found in breast milk is vitamin D. To me that's a giant clue that we were NOT designed to swallow vitamin D. Newborn infants, just like you, were designed to produce it by exposing their skin to natural sunlight.
Without question, the best way to get the right amount of vitamin D is to spend some time in the sun. The problem arises during the wintertime, when, depending on where you live, of course, sunshine is too scarce.
One alternative is to use a safe tanning bed that is shielded from harmful emissions, or by using a high-quality vitamin D supplement.
What You Need to Know About Vitamin D Supplements
The vitamin D that's added to milk is the synthetic and highly inferior vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). Only vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), the type of vitamin D found naturally in foods such as eggs, organ meats, animal fat, and cod liver oil is appropriate for supplementation.
Studies have concluded that vitamin D2 should no longer be regarded as a nutrient appropriate for supplementation or fortification of foods, yet no changes have been made within the food industry and it continues to be used!
The term 'buyer beware' definitely applies to fortified foods...
Perhaps the most important aspect of vitamin D supplementation is the need for regular testing.
Do not embark on a supplementation program without first checking your vitamin D levels, and getting tested regularly to make sure you're within a healthy range. Whereas you cannot overdose on vitamin D from the sun, you definitely run that risk when you're taking supplements.
For more information about this important topic, please review the articles listed below.