Vitamin D: A New Tool for Preventing Cardiovascular Disease?

You may have noticed a lot of buzz in the health media regarding vitamin D. Research now suggests that suboptimal vitamin D status may be associated with cardiovascular disease (CVD). A recent systematic review demonstrated that the highest levels of vitamin D were associated with a 43% reduction in cardiometabolic dysfunction.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps our bodies absorb and use calcium and phosphorus for strong bones and teeth. It can also protect against infections by keeping your immune system healthy, and may reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as multiple sclerosis and certain types of cancer, such as colorectal cancer.

Vitamin D is not found naturally in many commonly consumed foods. In Canada, it is added to foods such as milk and margarine and some soy or rice beverages and yogurts. Good food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, egg yolks and milk. Otherwise most of our vitamin D is made as a result of the skin’s exposure to UV rays from sunlight.

The association between vitamin D and CVD is supported by a number of ecological studies, which show that higher cardiovascular mortality is observed during the winter, and in regions with less exposure to sunlight. In Canada, many people have low vitamin D levels in winter due to lack of consistent sunshine. In addition, our skin’s ability to produce vitamin D decreases with age.

Clinical trials currently do not support vitamin D supplementation in prevention of heart disease per se. However, a supplement is often recommended when people have low levels of the vitamin. Keep in mind that the Institute of Medicine’s expert committee warns that total daily intake should remain below 4000 IU for adults and below 2500 IU for children, unless otherwise recommended by your doctor.

The following recipe is a tasty way to get more vitamin D the natural way.


Cheesy Spinach Sole

Ingredients:

  • 140 g spinach 5 1/2 cups
  • 2 sole fillets, or haddock 300 g
  • 2 tsp canola oil 10 mL
  • 1/4 onions, finely chopped 50 g
  • 1 carrots, grated 100 g
  • salt to taste
  • ground pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated 14 g

Preparation 10 min / Cooking 20 min
Serves 2

Instructions:

  1. Wash and lightly drain spinach; transfer to a saucepan. Add salt. Cover and wilt over high heat for 2-3 min. Transfer the spinach to a colander and press gently to remove excess water. Place into a baking dish.
  2. Pat the sole fillets dry. Arrange over the spinach.
  3. Heat the oil in a pan on medium-low heat. Finely chop the onion and grate the carrots and sauté 3-4 min with salt and pepper. Portion the vegetables out on top of each fillet. Top with parmesan.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven at 205°C for about 20 min, until golden. Serve.

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