Y’all, it is my favorite time of year! The sun is lingering a little longer, the birds are singing, colors are blossoming everywhere, and we can travel lighter. Although a few cold days are slipping in between, I am still grateful for the signs that the world is joining me in welcoming spring. The best part of all is that we get to shed seasonal depression. Yes, it is so real. Even on the sunniest winter day, from the placement of the sun in the sky to your covered skin, you’re not even getting a tenth of the sun exposure you get in warmer months. 

The dynamic duo.

Did you know vitamin D isn’t a vitamin at all? That’s right, it’s a hormone that requires other vitamins to metabolize. Vitamin D’s best friend is calcium. My kids all went through phases – some are still in them – where they didn’t want to go to events unless their friends were a part of them. They wouldn’t sign up for ballet classes or a birthday party because the right friends weren’t there and they’d “feel awkward.” Oh, the days of youth. Because I am their mother, they’re learning to walk into the room and let their presence be enough, however, vitamin D and calcium maintain that reliant nature. Vitamin D isn’t showing up to work unless calcium shows up and makes the area a workable environment for vitamin D to show up and do its thing. Vitamin D does the same for calcium. In short, vitamin D can’t metabolize without calcium and vice versa. We are seeing more and more research strengthening the credibility of the belief that together, this dynamic duo can prevent cancer, manage or prevent type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. 

The benefits of vitamin D.

There are two types of vitamin D; D2 and D3. D2 is a manmade product, typically found in packaged or modified foods and supplements. It’s quite difficult for our bodies to absorb. D3 on the other hand is naturally found in animal and plant-based products. It is the higher quality between the two and is much easier for our bodies to process. 

As is the case with most prepackaged goods, there is a high probability that those vitamins and nutrients are manmade and far less useful in being absorbed by bodies. 

Proper levels of this hormone support:

  • Bone health
  • Immune system
  • Blood sugar level management
  • Heart health
  • Hormone balance
  • Mood regulation
  • Concentration and memory
  • Radiant skin

Without proper amounts of metabolized vitamin D, it is common to experience things like:

  • Weak or sensitive bones
  • Sore muscles
  • Poor immune health/frequent sickness
  • Heart disease 
  • High cholesterol
  • Arthritis
  • Insomnia
  • Depression/fatigue 
  • Abnormal insulin levels
  • Asthma
  • Acne, eczema, psoriasis, or other types of dermal breakouts

On average adults should receive 400-800 UI or 10-20 micrograms of vitamin D per day. The number only climbs higher depending on an individual’s deficiency. A plethora of things could contribute to a vitamin D deficiency. If you eat organic produce naturally rich in vitamin D and spend 15 minutes outside every day, there is a good chance your vitamin D levels are better than most. Having a darker complexion, wearing too much or low-quality sunscreen, or low-quality supplements can all contribute to a deficiency. Additionally, be mindful of inflammation and health conditions like Crohn’s and celiac diseases that negatively affect vitamin D’s ability to penetrate vital organs. 

Foods to metabolize vitamin D.

Some of the most popular sources of calcium aren’t the best – or even close to it. Like vitamin D, calcium is often chemically engineered and infused into inorganic produce and prepackaged goods. You know, the kind of nutrients we just said were completely useless to your well-being? It’s funny how much work goes into providing fake peace of mind. Regardless, here are some calcium-rich foods to help metabolize your vitamin D that will keep your physical and emotional wellness in tip-top shape this summer. 

Organic dark leafy greens

Organic is the keyword here. Inorganic produce is sprayed with harmful pesticides that can do more damage than the deficiency itself. In addition to their copious calcium contents, foods like spinach, kale, and arugula are high in vitamin K, potassium, magnesium, iron, and other nutrients that support your heart, memory, weight management, and immune system. 

We can enjoy these greens in the raw or add them to dishes like pizzas, wraps, sandwiches, and soups. If you’re trying to move away from the cultural obsession with bready foods, pairing greens with cruciferous veggies, meats, and riced cauliflower or quinoa in a power bowl is a great idea! A quick scroll through Pinterest will offer inspiration for countless bowls to make in less than 10 to 20 minutes. Smoothies are also a great way to incorporate leafy greens on the go. 

Wild-caught fish

Fresh catches like mackerel, salmon, and sardines are excellent sources of healthy fats, phosphorus, iron, zinc, magnesium, and other minerals. The ocean. Be sure to avoid farm-raised fish. They are raised on unnatural diets of corn and other fattening consumable substances lacking many nutrients, much less the nutrients their bodies are made for. We’re not just what we eat, but what our food is eating as well. 

Quick and simple ideas for this finned food include making seafood salads, turning them into patties and air frying them up, adding them to a power bowl, or throwing them in a stir fry for an effortless meal. 

Nuts and seeds

Thank the good Lord above for this one! Not only are nuts easy to add to your diet; if you have the right herbs and spices, they can snatch the place of nearly every toxic food obsession you have and become the trophy of your cabinet. My personal favorite nuts are almonds, cashews, and pistachios. I love making flours, most traditionally dairy-based products, and crunchy snack medleys out of them. 

Seeds like chia, hemp, and flax can easily be added to other dishes as tasteless, unsuspecting agents bringing their A-game to our bodies’ fight for their health! They can also expand in certain environments and act as thickening agents like chia seeds do in chia pudding. 

Nuts and seeds contain unsaturated fats, loads of antioxidants, fiber, and plenty of nutrients that aid in cholesterol and weight management, prevention of diabetes, cancer, inflammation, and memory loss, as well as supporting brain health, and gut health. 

Bringing the family back to the table,

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Sakinah is an Army Veteran, Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and Wellness Advocate, Best Selling Author, Keynote Speaker, and Home Grown Chef.

After the untimely death of her husband and business partner and autoimmune complications suffered by her daughter, Sakinah realized life was no longer business as usual. She made the collective decision to redefine how she and her family approached health and healthcare.   She has a passion for helping families come back to the table by restoring healthy relationships with food, others, and self. Sakinah believes when women, the cornerstone of the family, learn to restore healthy relationships with food, others, and themselves, it creates a ripple effect for the entire family and generations to come.

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