15 Foods Full of Vitamin D and Why You Need Them Gallery
15 Foods Full of Vitamin D and Why You Need Them
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that as many as 30 million Americans suffer from a vitamin D deficiency, making it the most common nutrient deficiency in the country. There is no absolute consensus among medical professionals as to the exact amount of daily vitamin D required, but the Mayo Clinic uses the benchmark of 600 international units (IU).
But how do we get all of this vitamin D, and why is it so important to our overall health?
The body derives most of the vitamin D it needs from sunlight (good old ultraviolet B rays), but food and supplements are also common sources. Regardless of how you get your vitamin D — whether from an afternoon on the beach, a bowl of mushrooms, or a pill — the body needs to convert it into a useable substance called 25(OH)D.
After vitamin D is processed, the chemical is dispersed throughout the body, where it is “activated,” and able to perform its two main functions: managing calcium in the blood, bones, and gut; and assisting with intercellular communication. Within these two broad categories, vitamin D serves many other functions. It helps the body absorb calcium, promotes bone growth, helps fight depression, encourages weight loss, and reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis, heart disease, and the flu.
In the colder months, however, sunlight can be unreliable, with the time of day and your geographical location dramatically impacting the amount of vitamin D the body can manufacture. Getting your vitamin D through food is a more consistent and reliable solution that also avoids the risk of sunburn or skin cancer. Eating foods naturally rich in vitamin D — like certain fish and mushrooms — or foods fortified with vitamin D — such as tofu, milk, or orange juice — is an easy way to incorporate this crucial vitamin into your diet.
Holly Van Hare and Michael Serrur contributed to this article.
There’s a lot of debate over whether almond or cow’s milk is healthier. One of the biggest points proponents of cow’s milk make is that it has way more vitamin D than almond milk. As a result, however, many almond milks are now fortified with a good amount of both vitamin D and calcium!
Don’t knock it till you try it! There are lots of tasty ways to cook liver. While beef liver has much larger amounts of other nutrients, such as vitamin A, protein, and folate, it does provide a small dose of vitamin D in each savory serving. But you need all those nutrients. The protein, the minerals, the vitamin D, and more — I mean, what are you, chopped liver?
Buying and preparing fresh fish can be expensive and time consuming (not to mention it makes your whole kitchen smell like the supermarket seafood counter). Canned tuna is affordable and easy to use, has a yearlong shelf life, and contains 236 IU of vitamin D (more than half the daily requirement) in a single 3.5-ounce can. Whether it’s served in a tuna melt or as part of a tuna-avocado salad, canned tuna may be the solution to your lack of vitamin D.
Some cereals are filled with sugar and not much else. But most are fortified with vitamins and minerals to add some nutrition to an otherwise deficient breakfast. Vitamin D is often added to the most popular breakfast cereals. Add some milk and you’ve got a good portion of your daily value from breakfast alone!
The winter holidays may be several months away, but that doesn’t take away from the fact that a glass of eggnog contains 25 percent of the recommended daily amount of vitamin D. Eggnog contains eggs and fortified dairy, both of which are sources of vitamin D. It may not be a wise habit to fortify your diet with this overly-sweet (and often boozy) beverage, but eggnog’s vitamin D content is still a fun fact to mention at future holiday parties.
If you’re skimping on breakfast by sticking to egg whites, you might want to think again. The yolk has the most vitamins and minerals of any part of the egg — including a 41 IU portion of vitamin D. Out of ways to cook eggs that don’t bore you to death? Try one of these delicious egg recipes.
Fortified Dairy Products
Here’s one major benefit of choosing dairy over some types of plant-based milk. Dairy doesn’t naturally contain significant amounts of vitamin D, but the federal government started fortifying milk in the 1930s in response to widespread public deficiency of this essential nutrient. One cup of fortified milk, whether whole-fat or skim, contains 34 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D. Fortified yogurt is another dairy product containing vitamin D, with a 6-ounce container providing one-fifth of your daily requirement.
Fortified Orange Juice
Although oranges contain vitamin C and dietary fiber, orange juice requires fortification to be transformed into a reliable source of vitamin D. Unlike fish or mushrooms, orange juice is both accessible and palatable, making it an easy way for children (or finicky adults) to get their daily dose of vitamin D. One cup of fortified orange juice provides more than a quarter of the daily recommended intake of vitamin D.
When it comes to vitamin D, there are few things that can top mackerel. This big, oily fish has a similar nutritional profile to tuna, but it has lower levels of mercury and is less at risk of overfishing. A 4-ounce portion of mackerel more than fulfills an entire day’s requirement of vitamin D. The fish is also high in both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids and a good source of protein, and has been found to lower blood pressure in men. Try experimenting with canned mackerel or incorporate some fresh fillets into your next taco night.
They may be messy, but oysters are incredibly nutritious. Learn how to eat them without getting sick for the best health benefits; but regardless, just six oysters can provide over half your daily allowance of vitamin D.
Portobello mushroom farmers expose their crops to additional lighting, which boosts the vitamin D content by almost 3,000 percent. Increasing vitamin D intake has been used as an easy and cost-effective way to lessen the effects of depression. Food can have a bigger effect on your mood than you think!
Fans of bagels, cream cheese, and Jewish cuisine can celebrate the fact that a half-cup serving of this weekend brunch staple delivers almost a full day’s worth of vitamin D. Smoking the fish doesn’t add any additional nutrition, but it adds a whole bunch of flavor. “Whitefish” is an umbrella term for a number of different varieties of fish, such as cod, halibut, and pollock, but traditional smoked whitefish is made using chub or brook trout. Regardless of the variety, whitefish is usually low in fat and calories, but high in protein, B vitamins, and vitamin D.
There’s a reason soymilk was named the best plant-based milk in the aisle — it’s loaded with nutritious perks like vitamin D. For those who are lactose intolerant, vegetarian, and not fans of orange juice, it’s the best way to get a daily dose of vitamin D. Some brands, such as Silk, deliver around a quarter of the daily vitamin D requirements. Tofu, another soy-based product, is also usually fortified with vitamin D.
Turkey sausage is the meat-eater’s option for vitamin D. Including a few links into your breakfast routine won’t supply you with all the vitamin D you need for the day (turkey sausage only contains 12 percent of the RDI per three-ounce serving), but paired with a glass of milk or orange juice, it can bring some nice balance to breakfast.
Studies show that wild-caught salmon is a more complete source of vitamin D than its farm-raised counterpart. A 3.5-ounce serving of wild-caught salmon contains 988 IU (247 percent of the recommended daily intake) of vitamin D. Farmed salmon was found to contain as little as 25 percent of that amount. As well as vitamin D, salmon is a plentiful source of omega-3 fatty acids, selenium, and protein. The way your salmon was caught matters — and where you buy it from matters, too.