How often do you get outside? If you’re like most Americans, you don’t get nearly enough sunlight, which means that your vitamin D production isn’t what it should be. About 40 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient. If you’re not getting at least 800-1,000 IU per day from sunlight or foods, you’re missing out on this incredibly important vitamin.
Luckily, there are plenty of delicious foods rich in vitamin D. Incorporate these, some sunshine and a supplement to make sure that you get your recommended daily dose.
Why your body craves vitamin D
Did you know that vitamin D is the only vitamin your body spontaneously creates when exposed to sunlight? It’s true. Unfortunately, even if you get outside each day, if you’re wearing sunblock (which is important to prevent skin cancer), your body won’t be able to produce vitamin D like it normally would. Since most of us have been cooped up indoors more than usual, you’re more than likely vitamin D-deficient.
Vitamin D is important for your bones and teeth—it plays a crucial role in helping your body absorb calcium. Research suggests that this vitamin, when taken in conjunction with calcium, will promote weight loss.
It’s also helpful in regulating mood, so you don’t suffer from anxiety and depression, decreases your chances of developing heart disease and may even prevent you from getting the flu.
Eat these foods to reap the benefits of vitamin D
You can always take a vitamin D supplement, but when you incorporate these foods into your diet, you may not need to.
- Egg yolks. If you needed another excuse to eat a big, fluffy omelet, you should know that egg yolks are high in vitamin D. Look for eggs that are advertised as high in the vitamin. Chickens that are allowed to roam in the sunlight produce eggs with three to four times more than chickens who spend their time indoors. And if they’re given vitamin D-enriched feed, one egg yolk can have up to 6,000 IU. Breakfast of champions indeed.
- Salmon. Salmon is a perennially popular fatty fish. It’s packed with nutrients and lean protein, as well as plenty of vitamin D. Keep in mind that whether the fish is farmed or wild-caught makes a difference in D content—wild salmon has almost 1,000 IU per 3.5 ounce serving, while farmed salmon has about a quarter of that amount. Either way, it’s a great source of naturally occurring vitamin D.
- Mushrooms. The fungus among us are the plant kingdom’s way of getting your daily dose of D. Mushrooms produce vitamin D2, while animal sources provide D3. Wild mushrooms are your best bet—they’re more likely to be exposed to sunlight—since most farmed mushrooms are kept in the dark. Some are treated with UV light to artificially create vitamin D.
- Herring and sardines. Herring and sardines are small fish consumed globally. (Sardines are also quite sustainable.) You can get anywhere from 14 to 22 percent of your recommended daily intake from fresh or canned versions, as well as from pickled herring.
- Canned tuna. Canned tuna is a shelf-stable way to consume lean fish protein—and just 3.5 ounces provides about a third of your recommended daily dose. Unfortunately, canned tuna can contribute to mercury buildup—which is toxic—so don’t rely on tuna for all of your vitamin D needs. Limit yourself to about one serving per week.
- Fortified foods. Finally, you can get vitamin D from fortified foods—foods that have vitamin D added instead of naturally occurring sources. Orange juice, cow and soy milk, some cereals and oatmeal are all good sources of vitamin D. If you’re a vegan, vegetarian or just don’t like the foods above, this is a good way to get small amounts of the vitamin. Check the labels to get a better idea of how much you’ll need to consume to get the recommended daily allowance.
With summer approaching in the Western hemisphere, you’ll probably be spending more time outdoors. But since you should be slathered in sunblock, let these delicious foods help you keep up your vitamin D intake. Who couldn’t benefit from stronger bones and teeth, a healthier heart and a better mood? Monitor your vitamin D consumption and see if you notice a difference.