Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that your body needs for strong bones, improved immunity, and overall good health. Unfortunately, many people don’t get enough vitamin D from their diet or from sunlight exposure. In this article, we’ll explore what contains vitamin D and the best ways to get your daily dose to keep your body healthy.
7 Foods High in Vitamin D You Should Be Eating
If you’re looking for a natural way to get your daily dose of vitamin D, start with your diet. Here are seven foods that are high in vitamin D:
Fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel are some of the best sources of vitamin D. In fact, just 3 ounces of cooked salmon contains about 450 IU (International Units) of vitamin D. Plus, fatty fish are also packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for heart health.
Egg yolks are another great source of vitamin D. One large egg yolk contains about 40 IU of vitamin D. However, keep in mind that egg yolks are also high in cholesterol, so it’s best to limit your intake if you’re watching your cholesterol levels.
Mushrooms are one of the few plant-based sources of vitamin D. Plus, they’re low in calories and high in other beneficial nutrients. Look for mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light, which can increase their vitamin D content. Just 100 grams of white button mushrooms contains about 5 IU of vitamin D.
Milk is often fortified with vitamin D, making it a great way to get your daily dose. A single glass of milk (about 8 ounces) contains about 100 IU of vitamin D. If you don’t drink dairy milk, other types of milk like soy milk and almond milk are often fortified as well.
Cheese is another dairy product that’s often fortified with vitamin D. Just one ounce of Cheddar cheese contains about 6 IU of vitamin D. Plus, cheese is also high in calcium, which is important for bone health.
If you’re a fan of organ meats, beef liver is a great source of vitamin D. Just 3.5 ounces of beef liver contains about 49 IU of vitamin D. Keep in mind, however, that liver is also high in cholesterol and should be consumed in moderation.
Many foods, including cereal, orange juice, and yogurt, are often fortified with vitamin D. Check the labels on your favorite foods to see if they contain added vitamin D. Just one cup of fortified cereal can contain up to 40 IU of vitamin D.
The Importance of Vitamin D for Your Overall Health
Now that you know some foods that are high in vitamin D, it’s important to understand why this nutrient is so important for your overall health.
Vitamin D is crucial for strong bones. It helps your body absorb calcium, which is essential for bone growth and maintenance. Without enough vitamin D, your bones can become brittle and weak, which can increase your risk of fractures and osteoporosis.
Vitamin D helps your body fight off infections and diseases by supporting your immune system. Research has shown that people with higher vitamin D levels are less likely to get sick with illnesses like the flu and respiratory infections.
A growing body of research suggests that vitamin D may also be important for brain function and mental health. Studies have found that people with lower vitamin D levels are more likely to experience depression and cognitive decline.
Some research has linked low vitamin D levels to an increased risk of heart disease. Vitamin D may help improve heart health by reducing inflammation and improving blood pressure and other heart risk factors.
How Much Vitamin D Do You Really Need?
So, how much vitamin D do you really need? That depends on your age, gender, and other factors.
Recommended Daily Intake
The National Institutes of Health recommends the following daily intakes of vitamin D:
- Infants 0-12 months: 400-1000 IU
- Children 1-18 years: 600-1000 IU
- Adults 19-70 years: 600-800 IU
- Adults over 70 years: 800-1000 IU
Vitamin D Requirements by Age and Gender
Keep in mind that vitamin D requirements can also vary depending on your age and gender.
- Adults over 50 may need more vitamin D than younger adults.
- Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding may need more vitamin D.
Work with your doctor to determine how much vitamin D you should be consuming each day.
The Best Sources of Vitamin D for Vegetarians and Vegans
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you might struggle to get enough vitamin D from your diet. However, there are still some good plant-based sources of vitamin D:
Many breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D. Check the labels to see how much vitamin D each serving contains.
Fortified Plant Milks
Plant milks like soy, almond, and coconut milk are often fortified with vitamin D. Just like with cereal, check the labels to see how much vitamin D each serving contains.
As we mentioned earlier, mushrooms are one of the few plant-based sources of vitamin D. Look for mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light to increase their vitamin D content.
The Relationship Between Vitamin D and Sun Exposure
Your body can also produce vitamin D when it’s exposed to sunlight. However, it’s important to balance the benefits of sun exposure with the risks of skin damage and skin cancer.
How Much Sun Exposure is Enough?
The amount of sun exposure you need to get enough vitamin D can vary depending on a number of factors, including your skin tone and where you live. As a general rule, aim for about 10-15 minutes of sun exposure a day, a few times a week.
Safely Getting Enough Vitamin D from the Sun
If you’re going to be spending time in the sun, here are some tips for safely getting enough vitamin D:
- Avoid the hottest times of the day, when the sun is most intense.
- Expose your arms and legs to the sun for a few minutes at a time. Keep in mind, however, that wearing sunscreen can block your skin’s ability to produce vitamin D.
Vitamin D Supplements: Are They Worth It?
If you’re having trouble getting enough vitamin D from your diet and sunlight, you might want to consider taking a vitamin D supplement.
Who Might Benefit from Vitamin D Supplements?
Vitamin D supplements may be especially beneficial for people who:
- Live in areas with low levels of sunlight
- Have darker skin tones
- Are older or have chronic health conditions that may affect vitamin D absorption
Choosing and Using Supplements Safely
If you do decide to take a vitamin D supplement, here are some tips for doing so safely:
- Work with your doctor to determine the recommended dose.
- Choose a high-quality supplement from a reputable brand.
- Take your supplement with a meal that contains fat, which can help with absorption.
Vitamin D Deficiency: Symptoms, Causes, and Solutions
Finally, let’s talk about what happens when you don’t get enough vitamin D.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
Some common signs and symptoms of vitamin D deficiency include:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Bone pain and muscle weakness
- Depression and anxiety
- Low immunity and increased risk of infections
Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
There are many different things that can cause vitamin D deficiency, including:
- Lack of sunlight exposure
- Poor diet
- Certain chronic health conditions
Solutions for Boosting Your Vitamin D Levels
If you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, there are several things you can do to boost your levels:
- Get more sunlight exposure (safely!)
- Incorporate more vitamin D-rich foods into your diet
- Consider taking a vitamin D supplement
Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for overall health and well-being. By eating a diet rich in vitamin D, getting safe sun exposure, and considering a supplement if necessary, you can make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D to support your body.