Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient that can be hard to get enough of, especially in the winter. It plays a significant role in promoting absorption of calcium during digestion as well as signaling bone building cells. Vitamin D is also known to be involved with cell growth, neuromuscular function, immune function, and reduction of inflammation.
We make Vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight. In fact, about 15 minutes of full body exposure can meet our needs for the entire day. However, in the winter, most people are bundled up not leaving much skin visible to the light. Also, many people use sunscreen, which blocks the UV rays responsible for creating Vitamin D. Obviously, the prevention of skin cancer is important, so it’s lucky that we can obtain Vitamin D through food.
Foods that have high amounts of naturally occurring Vitamin D mostly come from seafood.
- Cod Liver Oil – 1336IU (International Units) per 1 tablespoon
- Swordfish – 566IU per 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards)
- Salmon – 447IU per 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards)
- Canned Tuna, drained – 154IU per 3 ounces (about the size of a deck of cards; higher amounts of IU may be found in a whole cooked tuna fillet)
- Sardines – 46IU is in two sardines canned in oil
If you’re a vegetarian, eat more eggs. Vitamin D is found in the egg yolk and you can get about 41IU of Vitamin D per whole egg.
However, you will likely also have to choose fortified products to help you get enough Vitamin D. Fortified products are products which have the nutrient added to them, even though they may not contain it naturally. Check labels and look at the percent daily value to ensure you are getting a fortified product.
Examples of food products commonly fortified with Vitamin D:
- Orange juice
- Non-Dairy Milk Alternatives
- Ready to Eat Cereals
Remember, the recommended daily value for most adults is 600IU. This amount is the minimum required to avoid disease. Researchers are still trying to investigate what levels promote optimal health. Make sure you get your Vitamin D levels tested regularly and work with a health care provider to ensure you are getting enough.