Vitamin D is often known as “the sunshine vitamin” since your body produces it when exposed to sunlight. Find out how important vitamin D is in your diet and what foods to eat to get more of it!
Many people know vitamin D as “the sunshine vitamin” because your skin produces it in response to sunlight, which helps promote a healthy mood. Vitamin D also supports immune health and overall wellness, making it a great addition to nearly any supplement regimen. It is especially important because your body needs it to absorb calcium and promote bone health.
Vitamin D is used to describe two substances from two different sources that act the same in the body. Vitamin D-3, or cholecalciferol, is formed from cholesterol and synthesized in the body when exposed to sunlight. Vitamin D-2, or ergocalciferol, is found in plants and used to fortify foods like margarine and milk.
Your body makes vitamin D by itself once exposed to the sun, but that can be difficult depending on the season, time of day, cloud cover, sunscreen, age and other factors, making the sun an unreliable source. If you live above 40 degrees north latitude, or north of Colorado, you won’t get much vitamin D at all in the winter months because the sun doesn’t get high enough in the sky for UV-B rays to penetrate the atmosphere. Regardless of the season, dermatologists recommend using sunscreen and getting vitamin D from food and supplements to minimize harmful sun exposure.
Luckily, you don’t have to just rely on the sun to get the vitamin D your body needs. Many manufacturers now add vitamin D to yogurt, cereal, margarine, orange juice and more, and there are a variety of supplements on the market as well. Vitamin D is also added to foods and beverages with calcium since it supports calcium absorption, which promotes strong bones and teeth.
The latest recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is 600 IU for individuals up to 70 years old and 800 IU for 71+. It can be toxic if taken in doses larger than 2,000 IU. Everybody is different, so be sure to check with your healthcare provider to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D and how much to take if you need more.
Check out the five most popular foods rich in vitamin D!
Top 5 Most Popular Foods Rich in Vitamin D:
1 Fatty fish
Fatty fish like salmon, trout, mackerel and tuna deliver about 450 IU of vitamin D per serving. Fish also feature heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, making it a great addition to nearly any diet.
Mushrooms can also produce vitamin D when exposed to UV light, but most are grown in the dark and don’t contain the vitamin. If you’re looking for plant-based foods rich in vitamin D, look for portobello mushrooms: a 3 ounce serving delivers 400 IU.
3 Fortified milk
Almost all cows’ milk in the U.S. is fortified with vitamin D. An 8 ounce glass of milk delivers at least 100 IU of vitamin D.
Vitamin D comes from the yolk, so it’s important to use the whole egg and not just the whites. The yolk delivers 40 IU of vitamin D.
5 Cod liver oil
Cod liver oil is often flavored with mint or citrus or is available in capsule form. One tablespoon delivers about 1,300 IU of vitamin D, which is more than twice the recommended daily allowance for most people, but it’s still safe for consumption.
Even though you can get vitamin D from food, supplements and the sun, an estimated 40 to 75 percent of people may be deficient. Many people can be vitamin D deficient, even if they spend time outdoors and eat well-balanced diets. Most natural food sources of vitamin D are animal based, so if you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, try adding supplements to make sure you’re not deficient.
To get the most out of vitamin D, try to get outside for 15 minutes, eat two servings of fatty fish a week and take a vitamin D supplement with good fats like avocados, fish and nuts.
Share how you get vitamin D in your diet below!
Looking for more information on sources of vitamin D and factors that could increase the risk of vitamin D deficiency, read Say Hello to the Sunshine Vitamin: Top Foods High in Vitamin D.