photo credit

This will be the first in a series of “The Importance of…” where we will examine the latest “buzz nutrients” and find out how we can obtain them through real foods, superfoods and excellent supplements.

Frankly, I am really tired of reading about specific nutrients. Everywhere we look people are talking about this vitamin, that mineral, this probiotic, that omega. Y’all they put “probiotics” in the strangest places now.

Instead of asking “Did you take your cod liver oil today?” we now ask “Have you gotten your 10,000 IUs of vitamin D today?”

It is messed up.

But here I am about to tell you about vitamin D. Why? Probably because this is now the language we speak. All I ever learned in college was to dig deeper, ask why, break everything down to its smallest elements. So now I have to retrain my mind to take cod liver oil because healthy people have taken it for years, not because some scientist tells me it has so many IUs of vitamin D. Who talks in terms of IUs anyway?!

Why Vitamin D Matters

The reason vitamin D is on my mind is because a year ago I had some blood work run after the birth of our baby and I was vitamin D deficient. Then when my husband had some blood work run last week we found that he, too, was vitamin D deficient. There is definitely something missing in our diets.

Now I could link to this article or that article and tell you all about why you need vitamin D, but I know y’all are as tired of that as I am (click here if you’re not that tired of it yet). I could tell you how it’s critical to the immune system, your metabolism, your heart health, your bone strength, blah, blah, blah.

Food Sources of Vitamin D

Instead lets just talk about the best sources of vitamin D and we’ll see the difference between our generation of vitamin D deficiency and healthy generations of the past.

The amounts given are per 100 grams, 3 1/2 oz, or 7 Tablespoons

  • Cod Liver Oil – 10,000
  • Lard (Pork Fat) – 2,800
  • Atlantic Herring (Pickled) – 680
  • Eastern Oysters (Steamed) – 642
  • Catfish (Steamed/Poached) – 500
  • Skinless Sardines (Water Packed) – 480
  • Mackerel (Canned/Drained) – 450
  • Smoked Chinook Salmon – 320
  • Sturgeon Roe -232
  • Shrimp (Canned/Drained) – 172
  • Egg Yolk (Fresh) – 148 (One yolk contains about 24 IU)
  • Butter – 56
  • Lamb Liver (Braised) – 20
  • Beef Tallow – 19
  • Pork Liver (Braised)-12
  • Beef Liver (Fried) – 12
  • Beef Tripe (Raw) – 12
  • Beef Kidney (Simmered) – 12
  • Chicken Livers (Simmered) – 12
  • Small Clams (Steamed/Cooked Moist) – 8
  • Blue Crab (Steamed) – 4
  • Crayfish/Crawdads (Steamed) – 4
  • Northern Lobster (Steamed) – 4


To put these numbers in perspective the Weston A. Price foundation recommends 4000 IUs per day from all sources.

A few things to consider looking at the above data:

  • There are zero plant foods on that list.
  • Most people can not obtain enough vitamin D from sunlight alone, even in warmer climates.
  • The precursor to vitamin D through sunlight is cholesterol – which can be obtained from many of the things on the list above.
  • Our grandparents and great grandparents ate a lot more of these foods along with taking cod liver oil.

The Takeaway

It is easy to see why my husband and I may be deficient: both cod liver oil and lard have been absent from our diets. I made the mistake of believing others who said fish oil and cod liver oil were the same thing. They are not in fact, and I am looking forward to purchasing fermented cod liver oil this week now that we are nearly through our fish oil supply.

I wrote before about why fermented cod liver oil is optimal. The best price and lowest shipping that I’ve seen online can be found on my resources page. You can also find many of the animal products from that list here.

What about you… what are your thoughts on vitamin D, cod liver oil and health?


19 Responses to The Importance of Vitamin D

  1. Thanks for this post. But do you know whether Cod Liver Oil contains enough Omega-3s? I get confused. Some things I’ve read say CLO is fine for Omega-3s, others say take fish oil in addition to CLO.


  2. Amanda says:

    Ooo, I’m forever a skeptic and possibly a cynic! I’ve been interested in alternative health care and real food for over a decade now and have seen many trends come and go, as I’m sure you have too. This has been the year for at least 5 people I know (coincidentally all over the age of 50), to be diagnosed as being Vitamin D deficient, and have certainly read more articles about this deficiency in mainstream publications this year. I’m not saying it’s not true, but why the buzz this year? My notoriously frugal MIL has been diagnosed as Vit D deficient and true to form, bought the cheapest, worst quality (~$3) bottle of “Vitamin D”. When I tried to question this, she assured me her doctor said this was fine to take (no discussion whatsoever about eating real food- especially fats, taking cod liver oil or aiming to get outside more).
    So I have no real idea of what this all means… just admitting my skepticism when a new health trend or diagnosis makes headlines.
    I love this post though, and do think that Vit D and real forms of obtaining it are super important. :)


  3. weeble says:

    I took cod liver oil (liquid) as a kid and rarely was sick – not even a cold. Well, many years later, I’ve developed severe arthritis and because of blood test results have been told to avoid prescription & OTC anti-inflammatories. Any ideas? I’ve heard fish oil (omega 3) works as an anti-inflammatory? True? I’m not normally a “health food nut” but am willing to give it a try. I’m also using cinnamon, turmeric, pectin in grape juice and ginger.


  4. [...] The Importance of Vitamin D at Nourishing Days [...]

  5. Lindsey says:

    Thank you so much for this! Very timely for us. I must be an inherent Vit D fan (or conversely, deficient thereby) b/c all the food you listed just sounds SUBLIME… almost *craving* level sublime. So hmmm. Making mental notes…


  6. Dr. Mercola has talked so much about vitamin D recently, that it has certainly gotten it back into my radar! He doesn’t recommend that you supplement with vitamin D (from non-real food sources) unless you were tested to be deficient, but I hope that my “real food sources” will be enough for me. Where did you get tested?

    I remember reading years ago that they have found less breast cancer rates in sunny states compared to nonsunny states (because of the lack of vitamin D). I take the fermented cod liver oil everyday, but I need to also start remembering to eat lard. Bacon grease is yummy, so that shouldn’t be too big of a problem. :-)


  7. I found this article very interesting. Our family has been taking non-animal source high dose vit D supplements for about one year now. It’s interesting to me how we come from such different perspectives on diet but I really value what you have to say from a whole foods view.

    Damien, my husband, steers the health ship in our home and decided many years ago from his own experience with eliminating allergies that our family should eat mostly plants. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it (smile, and meant in the best way possible) but I appreciate the different viewpoint you offer here. You obviously care deeply for your family’s health and well being and THAT I can totally relate to!


  8. Cathy says:

    Though our family does take cod liver oil, I find it pretty much impossible to get the large quantities I seem to need solely from food and cod liver oil. I know the fermented kind is supposed to be somewhat higher, but with several other quality supplements needed right now, it just isn’t in our budget at this time. So we’re using Carlson Solar D Gems, 4000 IU each, along with our regular fish oil and cod liver oil. My husband takes one per day and I take two. The children take a smaller dosed capsule.

    It’s interesting that I tested so low, IMO, considering how many of the right foods I consume, including lard, eggs, cod liver oil and myriad others…perhaps an absorption problem related to the lupus/Hughes’ stuff.


  9. Staci says:

    It is frustrating that there aren’t many vegetarian options for Vit D. frankly just the sound of cod liver oil makes me want to gag.
    We just started using the Corlson D3 drops, and have been quite happy with it. I can just do a drop on the kids breakfast cereal, which is great, because there is no way we would get enough sunshine in Michigan through the year.


  10. [...] written about The Importance of Vitamin D [...]

  11. [...] Fish oil does not contain the vitamins A or D like cod liver oil does. We have all heard about the importance of vitamin D and vitamin [...]

  12. SCB says:

    Wow, that IS confusing. Fish oil in addition to cod liver oil? Isn’t cod fish?

    I’m going to start taking the Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil (currently taking the capsules but learned the liquid is more beneficial) and not worry too much about it.

    I came up deficient a year ago because they changed the “normal” range…I think we all are considered deficient now! Interesting.


  13. Lindsey says:

    *Apparently* there are different forms of omega-3s, some more easily absorbed than others -


    To quote, specifically:
    Research indicates that omega-3s may be better absorbed from food than supplements. Norwegian researchers compared 71 volunteers’ absorption of omega-3s (EPA and DHA) from salmon, smoked salmon, cod (14 ounces of fish per week) or cod liver oil (3 teaspoons per day). Cooked salmon provided 1.2 grams of omega-3s daily, while cod liver oil provided more than twice as much: 3 grams of omega-3s per day.

    Despite the fact that the salmon group got less than half the amount of omega-3s as the cod liver oil group, blood levels of omega-3s increased quite a bit more in those eating salmon than those taking cod liver oil. After 8 weeks, EPA levels had risen 129% and DHA rose 45% in those eating cooked salmon compared to 106% and 25%, respectively, in those taking cod liver oil.

    In the group eating smoked salmon, blood levels of omega-3s rose about one-third less than in the salmon group. In those eating cod, the rise in omega-3s was very small.

    Concurrent with the rise in omega-3s in those eating salmon, a drop was seen in blood levels of a number of pro-inflammatory chemicals (TNFalpha, IL-8, leukotriene B4, and thromboxane B2). Researchers think omega-3s may be better absorbed from fish because fish contains these fats in the form of triglycerides, while the omega-3s in almost all refined fish oils are in the ethyl ester form. Once absorbed, omega-3s are converted by the body from their triglyceride to ester forms as needed.


  14. Shannon says:

    SCM – I have read that you can if your body is in need of extra omega-3s. I believe that cod liver oil has less in the way of omega-3s than regular fish oil, but I couldn’t tell you whether everyone needs both or not.


  15. Shannon says:

    Renee – I often think of you just before I hit the publish button when writing articles involving animal products and veganism. You may be one of two vegans who reads my blog :) . I have a great respect for vegans and vegetarians because it shows a mindfulness about what goes into our body and where our food comes from. I also think it’s great that your husband is steering your health ship – I get emails asking me how they can force their husbands to eat well or think about health. Kudos to Damien and I would never want to undermine his leading of your family.

    The great struggle I have with veganism is the nutrients such as vitamins D and B12 that are not found in plant sources. But that is another post for another day. Thanks for sticking around despite our differences :) .



  16. Shannon says:

    Kimi – We were tested through any lab that would do blood work. The key is to find a doctor to care about such things :) . We had a DO order our tests. And yes we love bacon grease here too!


  17. Shannon says:

    Yes, that makes sense.


  18. Shannon says:

    SCB – Yes cod is fish. I think some people take regular old fish oil in addition to cod liver oil for the extra omega 3′s.


  19. Shannon says:

    Amanda – Wow, I didn’t realize that a $3 bottle of vitamin D existed! I hear you on skepticism. That is much of why just getting back to eating real foods that we have now found to be high in vitamin D makes so much sense to me.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Set your Twitter account name in your settings to use the TwitterBar Section.