The Best 5 Vitamin D Foods To Add to Your Diet ASAP

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December 12, 2022
salmon fillet with lemon and thyme
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On those short winter days when it seems like your interaction with daylight is best described as “limited,” it’s important to consider whether you’re getting the necessary Vitamin D you need — and certain foods can assist you with that.

“Vitamin D is considered the ‘sunshine vitamin,’ in that it can be produced in the skin through exposure to full-spectrum sunlight,” says Dr. Jeffrey Bland, PhD, a clinical biochemist, president of Big Bold Health and founder of the Institute for Functional Medicine.

Exposure to the midday sun between 5 and 30 minutes twice a week is recommended for getting sufficient vitamin D. But if you’re getting to work before the sun rises and leave after it sets, this can be understandably difficult.

“People in northern latitudes where there is little exposure to sunlight in the winter months often get inadequate amounts of vitamin D,” says Bland.

Why vitamin D is important for the body

Vitamin D was once thought to be mainly important for children in order to prevent the bone disorder called rickets, but, “over the past twenty years it has become well recognized that it has a very important role in adults in not only preventing bone loss, but also in the health of the nervous and immune systems,” says Bland.

Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium and phosphorous for stronger bones and teeth as you age. It also strengthens the immune system by stimulating T-cell production, which protects the body from infection.

One study also suggests that proper vitamin D intake has the ability to positively affect mood, which cannot be understated during the colder and darker months; vitamin D deficiency has been linked with cases of seasonal depression.

“Vitamin D is considered a problem vitamin in that its dietary intake for many people is lower than what is considered ideal for maintaining health,” says Bland.

What about supplements?

The daily recommended allowance for Vitamin D in adults is at least 600 international units (IU) from foods or supplements. Some good news is that Vitamin D supplements can be effective in increasing your Vitamin D intake.

“Vitamin D supplements are well absorbed and do improve vitamin D status in those who are not getting enough from the sun exposure or diet,” says Bland. However, experts do say amping up your consumption of the following vitamin D foods is majorly beneficial for solid bone and immune health during the winter. Here are the five vitamin D foods to incorporate into your meals for a boost of the sunshine vitamin.

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1. Fatty fish

Along with being excellent sources of heart-healthy omega-3s, fatty fish are also known for being a top source of vitamin D. Bland says fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, canned tuna, and cod liver oil are all high vitamin D foods.

Seafood is something else many of us don’t eat enough of, so if you needed another reason to try to incorporate more of these into your diet, consider doing it for vitamin D. A 3-ounce portion of salmon clocks in with about 450 IU of vitamin D — almost the entire daily recommendation in one go, making it one of the best vitamin D foods to consume.

2. Eggs

Hens are often fed a vitamin-D-enriched diet so their eggs are another good source of vitamin D for humans. Hens also receive Vitamin D from sunlight, so eggs that are truly free-range are typically higher in vitamin D than those that are not.

Egg whites contain most of the protein of eggs, while the yolks contain vitamins and minerals such as vitamin D; one egg yolk contains around 45 IU. A meal consisting of two or three eggs can then contribute up to 20% of the recommended daily value of vitamin D.

3. Milk & yogurt

“In the American diet, most of the vitamin D comes from fortified foods,” says Bland.

Milk and yogurt are foods that are often vitamin D-fortified, and according to the National Dairy Council, milk that is labeled as fortified must contain 100 IU or just over 15% of the daily recommendation. This absolutely counts toward making sure you’re getting enough vitamin D, especially during days with limited sunlight hours.

4. Fortified cereals

Cereals and cereal bars are other foods that are often vitamin D-fortified. Fortified cereals typically contain at least 30 IU or 5% of the recommended daily value of vitamin D for a 1-cup serving. Some cereals do have more than this, yet keep in mind that some cereals will have a high amount of unwanted added sugars, so be sure to check the label.

5. Mushrooms

Like humans, mushrooms can synthesize vitamin D through exposure to sunlight, so mushrooms have the potential to be one of the best plant-based sources of vitamin D. The catch-22 however, is that mushrooms tend to grow in damp conditions, which doesn’t often go hand-in-hand with sun exposure. But some cultivators of mushrooms such as Omstrom are exposing mushrooms to UV light in order to increase their vitamin D content, up to 400 IUs for a 3-ounce serving.

Read next: Avoid Vitamin D Deficiency This Winter With These 4 Key Steps

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