Vitamin D and a big bowl of stew

Where we live, if you wake up to a beautiful, mid-winter, sunny day, you grab your coat and hat and head outside!  We did just that on the weekend – for “a little vitamin D” as the saying goes. Sunshine can be rare these days, so we decided to celebrate this good weather with a little snowshoeing.

We got lots of exercise and fresh air, but the question is did we get our vitamin D?  You see, we live approximately 45 degrees north of the Equator.  This time of year the sun’s rays are not that strong.  However, when reflected off the snow, the sun’s ultra-violet rays double in strength.

Vitamin D is all the talk these days.  It is considered an important vitamin in the prevention of many acute illnesses and chronic diseases.  As the media continuously reports, most of us Canadians are deficient in this vitamin.

The best source of vitamin D is produced by our skin after sun exposure.  There are some food sources such as, fortified grains, fortified plant-based and animal-based milk, fish, and cod liver oil.  However, all these food sources have a minimal amount of vitamin D compared to what our bodies can make from the sun.

A plant-based diet is not the cause of a vitamin D deficiency.  A vitamin D deficiency is a sign of sunlight deficiency.

According to Dr. Matt Lederman, a lecturer in the Plant-Based Nutrition Program at Cornell, vitamin D is made by our bodies when 50% to 75% of our skin is exposed to UVB light.  That is, the sunlight we experience around noon hour.  If you have the skin type which easily burns and rarely tans, like myself, then only 15 minutes in the sun is required. The darker your skin type, the longer your skin should be exposed to sunlight.

Lederman also suggests that the day’s UV index must be 3 or higher for your body to make vitamin D.  If you check out this chart from Environment Canada for today, only a few cities in Canada, and these cities were in southern Ontario, ever got to a UV index of 3.

If getting vitamin D from the sun is unlikely due to your geographic location,  your inability to get outside in the sunlight, or your concern with unprotected sun exposure,  then supplementation may be required.

When taking vitamin D supplements, be cautious as to avoid toxicity.  I believe that supplements should be treated like medicine and taken under the care of a health care provider.  If you are concerned about your vitamin D levels, get some blood work done.

Vitamin D supplements are generally derived from sheep’s wool or fish oil.  Vitashine does make an organic, non GMO plant-based vitamin D supplement made from lichens.


After a good few hours in the snow, we went home to a big bowl of Sweet Potato Lentil Stew.  It is hearty and absolutely perfect as a meal on a cold winter’s day.

This recipe comes from Dreena Burton’s cookbook, eat, drink and be vegan. You will find the exact recipe here.  I made the oil-free version and added an extra garlic. 🙂

9 thoughts on “Vitamin D and a big bowl of stew

  1. veganfoodpreparation

    What different lifestyles we lead. It hasn’t rained here since November and the temperatures have been consistently in the thirties and at times forties.
    I’m sure I’ll still enjoy the stew though.
    Take care.

    1. uberdish Post author

      Wow – I can’t imagine temperatures in the 30s and 40s right now. Last summer, we had some days that reached the mid 30s. It was terrible! We’re just not used to it!
      Hope you enjoy the stew. It is very tasty!
      Stay dry 🙂

  2. Ally

    Hi Angela! Interesting post, as always. The UV index is usually around 12 or 13 at this time of the year in my ‘neck of the woods’. I assume that I have adequate Vit D levels, because of the abundance of sunshine here. But I don’t really know. I do try and limit my sun exposure because I am fair, and burn easily. I have considered getting a blood test.
    Delicious recipe too. We have had a lot of rain over the last few days. This meal would be perfect.
    I love the photos!

    1. uberdish Post author

      12 or 13!! My goodness! Yes, you would have to be so careful in the sun. I’m planning to take the whole family in for blood work. I want our vitamin D and B12 levels checked (my B12 level is usually very high). We all feel well…I’m just curious. I don’t think my vitamin D levels have ever been checked. My doctor is probably going to give me an, “oh Angela” comment again. 🙂
      Stay dry! Hope you enjoy this stew. We actually found it a wee bit sweet. No sugar added, so it must be the sweet potatoes and cinnamon. So good!

      1. Ally

        Just thought I’d update. My husband had some blood work done recently, and his Vitamin D levels were good. So, he obviously gets enough sun! I’m thinking of having a blood test too, just out of curiosity. Did you end up having a blood test?

      2. uberdish Post author

        That’s wonderful that your husband’s vitamin D levels are good! Our full physical appointments are in April and this is when we will have our blood work done. The Spring is usually when we pay our doctor a visit, so they wouldn’t take us any earlier. I am anxious for these results because we have been taking vitamin D supplements. I am curious to learn if we have been getting enough, or if our bodies are absorbing enough (due to our diet I assume we will have no absorption issues). I also want my doctor to check our B12 levels. I will keep you updated.

  3. liveblissful

    Great post! We are being bombarded about Vitamin D scares at the moment as well. Even though we live in a tropical sub climate in Australia we don’t get enough sun either, from being too busy or from trying to avoid skin cancer. It’s great that you guys are still being active outside even though its winter. Theres no excuse for me lol

    1. uberdish Post author

      Thank you! I am so happy you liked my post! Getting vitamin D can be tricky for so many of us no matter where we live. Many of us spend our days working indoors or we cover ourselves in sunblock out of fear of burning when we do get out. As a family, we try to get out as much as we can. It really makes our long winter a little easier. 🙂


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