Most all of us experience some level of vitamin D deficiency. In fact, new research is emerging, showing that current requirements may not be enough to receive the maximum benefits from the vitamin, Kimberly Altman, M.S., R.D., LD/N, dietician, at Pritikin Longevity Center, tells us. Health professionals at Pritikin are now recommending an intake of 1,000-2,000 IU (International Units) per day.
Vitamin D can help reduce the risk of cancer and osteoporosis, and other benefits include blood pressure regulation, healthy bones and teeth, improved immune system and more, and while sunlight and supplements are the best sources, we thought you could use an additional boost with some foods with vitamin D, especially with the dreary months ahead.
The 2 Best Sources of Vitamin D
While the following slides will share foods that are high in vitamin D, you can’t meet the daily recommended needs with food alone, Altman says.
Sunlight: Fifteen minutes of sun exposure (without sunscreen), two to three times weekly is a good recommendation. “In the early morning and late afternoon, the sun’s rays are much weaker, so don’t count on making enough vitamin D then,” Altman says. Discuss with your dermatologist if sunlight exposure is an appropriate way for you to obtain your vitamin D.
Supplements: Supplements are a good way to meet your daily requirements along with eating fish and nonfat dairy, especially if you live in northern climates or do not get regular sun exposure, says Altman. Look for vitamin D3 on the supplement label. Discuss with your physician what level of vitamin D supplementation is appropriate for you.
“This is the grown-up version of a sardine,” says Lindsay Martin, Hilton Head Health’s resident R.D. These fish are relatively small and near the bottom of the food chain, so don’t feel bad about enjoying them. Herring also doesn’t accumulate the contaminants that are more common in large, predatory fish, Martin adds. “Herring as a great protein and omega-3 fatty acid source is an additional bonus.”
Salmon (Tuna, Mackerel, Rainbow Trout)
“The flesh of these fatty fish is not only rich in vitamin D, but it’s also a great source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin C and more,” says Martin. Add a yogurt lemon dill sauce and enjoy.
“Canned tuna is a great option if you’re looking for a healthy, affordable and versatile food,” says Amber Ketchum, R.D., at Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts’ new Texas location. “One 3-ounce serving of tuna (packed in water) will provide almost half of your daily dose of vitamin D.”
Most milk and yogurts are fortified with vitamin D, but make sure to check the labels, Martin says.
Lactose intolerant? Try Lactaid, which is fortified with vitamin D, Martin suggests. Or, opt for other alternatives like soy or almond milk, which are now fortified with calcium and vitamin D as well, but be sure to check the label, Ketchum adds.
When it comes to vitamin D, don’t chuck the yolk, experts agree. “Sometimes eggs get a bad reputation due to the high cholesterol content of the yolk,” Ketchum acknowledges. “However, eating the whole egg provides many vitamins and nutrients, including vitamin D, that are simply not found in the egg white on its own.”
Make scrambled eggs or omelets with at least one yolk, Martin suggests, instead of using all egg whites. If you enjoy hard-boiled versions, go ahead and keep the yolk, and know you are getting a source of vitamin D, choline and vitamin B12, she says.
Orange Juice, Fortified
“This is a great way to increase your intake of vitamin D if you don’t drink any type of milk or consume fish,” Ketchum says. And, if you’re currently drinking another type of juice in the morning, trade it in for 4-8 oz. of fortified O.J., Martin recommends.
One cup (8 ounces) of 100-percent orange juice fortified with vitamin D will provide about the same amount as one glass of milk.
“These small fish are an excellent source of both calcium and vitamin D,” Ketchum tells us. “They may be small, but sardines are considered a fatty fish, which means they provide big nutrition in a tiny package!”
A little goes a long way; try adding sardines to a homemade pizza or use sardines in place of your regular chicken salad, Martin suggests.
Yogurt (Cow’s Milk)
As with milk and orange juice, be sure to read the label on yogurt, both Ketchum and Martin agree. Some brands may have higher than 80 IUs per serving. “You need the vitamin D to assist in the absorption of calcium so take the time to do your research,” Martin says.
Try using a tablespoon of a vitamin D-fortified margarine, without partially hydrogenated oils, in your sauté pan while cooking vegetables or various protein sources, suggests Martin.
“Shrimp is another great source of protein to mix into your meal plan,” Martin says. “Try using your vitamin D fortified margarine to sauté your shrimp.”
Liver may not be one of the most popular food choices, but it is one of the few foods that naturally contains vitamin D, along with many other essential nutrients, Ketchum says.
Many of breakfast cereals are good sources of vitamin D since they are fortified (and great options for vegetarians!); just make sure your cereal is 100-percent whole grain and try to choose those with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving, both Ketchum and Martin advise. Also, be sure to read the nutrition labels, Martin says. “As mentioned earlier, vitamin D3 is the active form of vitamin D, so this is what you want to find,” she says.
“There are many varieties of mushrooms that are now grown under tightly controlled conditions with exposure to UV light, which increases their Vitamin D content,” Ketchum tells us. “These are a delicious option as a plant source vitamin D. The package will say if the mushrooms are vitamin D-enhanced.” Altman suggests opting for button and shitake mushrooms.