Foods highest in vitamin D include certain fish, like trout, but if you're vegetarian you can get your RDA from fortified food.
Orange juice, milk, and cereal are popular foods fortified with vitamin D.
Egg yolks and mushrooms are also a good vegetarian-friendly source of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is an important vitamin that aids in the formation of strong bones among other health benefits. Even though it can be produced by the human body through sunlight exposure, about 40% of Americans are still deficient in this "sunshine vitamin."
This is because people tend to spend a lot of time indoors and also because most of the United States lies at latitudes above 37 degrees where there is less sunlight. For those who do not get enough sunlight, they can consume some of their daily dose of vitamin D through certain foods.
How much vitamin D do I need?
According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended daily amount of vitamin D for each age group is:
Some demographics need to be more aware of their vitamin D intake than others. Fleet says that older people, those with darker skin, and those who cover their skin - like for health or religious reasons - are more at risk of a vitamin D deficiency.
To help you reach your daily recommended intake of vitamin D, here are six healthy foods with the vitamin:
1. Eat salmon
Salmon, an easily accessible fish, is packed with vitamin D. A 3 oz serving of salmon contains 375 international units (IU) of vitamin D.
If possible, opt for wild-caught salmon for an added boost of nutrition. A 2007 study in the Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology found that a 3.5 oz serving of wild caught salmon had an average of 988 IU of vitamin D, whereas the same amount of farmed salmon contained, on average, 240 IU.
"Salmon is a great source of B vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids, which is thought to be beneficial in preventing cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer's disease, inflammation in general," says Vanessa Rissetto MS, RD, CDN, the acting director of New York University's dietetic internship.
Rissetto says salmon is simple to cook. She recommends baking a fillet at 350 °F for 45 minutes. To add some more flavor marinate in nonfat Greek yogurt, dill, garlic, and lemon juice.
2. Try trout
Trout is also an excellent source of other vitamins and minerals, says Rissetto. These include:
Niacin, which helps your body turn food into energy
Vitamin B12, which helps with red blood cell formulation
Omega 3 fatty acids, which can reduce your risk of disease and stroke
Rissetto says an easy way to cook trout is grilling it in a pan with shallots, garlic, and one tablespoon of olive oil. Place it on top of mixed greens for a light lunch or dinner.
3. Supplement with cod liver oil
Cod liver oil is a supplement that can be purchased at most grocery stores. It is a great option for those who don't like fish, but still want an easy way to add vitamin D to their diet.
While cod liver oil was once given to kids by the unpalatable spoonful, "today, cod liver oil is provided in capsules, so you can avoid the taste,"says James Fleet, PhD, a professor in the Department of Nutrition Science at Purdue University.
Two capsules - about the equivalent of 5 milliliters of cod liver oil - will give you about 400 IU of the sunshine vitamin per day. This equates to about 66% of the average person's daily requirement of vitamin D.
4. Eat mushrooms
For vegans and vegetarians, mushrooms are a good alternative source of vitamin D. A cup of diced raw maitake mushrooms contains 786 IU of vitamin D.
However, vitamin D content varies across mushrooms. A 2018 review paper in Nutrients found that fresh wild mushrooms have more vitamin D than store bought mushrooms.
For example, the researchers found that 100 grams of wild funnel chanterelles contained three to 30 micrograms of vitamin D compared to store bought button mushrooms which only had less than one microgram of vitamin D.
The difference in nutrition comes down to how the mushrooms are grown. Just like humans, mushrooms produce vitamin D when they are exposed to sunlight. And, in general, store bought mushrooms are grown in dimly lit environments thereby leading to less vitamin D..
To add more mushrooms to your diet, Rissetto recommends sauteeing them and tossing them on top of eggs or turkey burgers.
Read more about the health benefits of mushrooms.
5. Try egg yolks
Another option for vegetarians looking to boost their intake of vitamin D are eggs - especially the yolk. One large egg with yolk contains about 44 IU of vitamin D, which accounts for 6% of the recommended daily value.
If you are concerned about how egg yolk might affect your cholesterol, don't be. "We've studied eggs for the last 60 years and can note that the yolks are not known to raise cholesterol," says Rissetto.
6. Eat fortified foods
Governments often collaborate with industry to fortify foods as a means of addressing micronutrient deficiencies in their population, such as vitamin D.
Common examples of foods fortified with vitamin D in the US include:
2% milk, which contains about 120 IU per cup
Orange juice, which contains 100 IU of vitamin D per cup
Select breakfast cereals, for instance Kellogg's Special K contains about 24 IU per ¾ cup
Fleet says it doesn't matter if you are getting your vitamin D from supplements, fortified foods, or foods where it occurs naturally - your body appears to absorb it all the same.
Is it possible to have too much Vitamin D?
Doctors usually advise patients who are prone to fractures, have hypoparathyroidism which is a thyroid condition, and autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis to take vitamin D supplements. If you are considering taking a vitamin D supplement, consult with your physician to find the right dosage for you and ensure you don't take too much.
Vitamin D is an important vitamin that helps your body build strong bones. Even though you can produce this vitamin through sunlight exposure, many Americans aren't able to spend adequate time outdoors. Therefore, to help you hit your recommended daily requirement, consider adding fish, mushrooms, or a vitamin D supplement to your diet.
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