Vitamin D – it’s called the “sunshine vitamin” for the obvious reason that the body produces it when exposed to the sun. It is also called that because vitamin D helps increase your mood, your stamina and so much more. In fact, it works in many ways throughout your body and is essential for optimal health. Besides the sun, vitamin D is available through supplements and foods that contain it in high amounts.
WHAT IS VITAMIN D?
News alert – Vitamin D is not even a vitamin. It is actually something called a prohormone. Produced by the kidneys, vitamin D helps control blood calcium concentration and boost the immune system. It is effective throughout the body because it binds to a protein (appropriately called the vitamin D receptor) that is in almost every cell and impacts many different body processes.
WHAT DOES VITAMIN D DO?
As a nutrient that is important to keeping our bodies healthy, vitamin D has several functions:
- It works with the cells in your gut to absorb calcium and phosphorous – minerals that are essential for maintaining strong, healthy bones.
- It blocks the release of the parathyroid hormone – helping to keep bones from getting thin and brittle.
- It plays a role in muscle function and helps to fend off muscle and bone pain.
- It works with the immune system to protect your body against infection and other illnesses.
WHAT ARE SIGNS OF VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY?
It is recommended that our bodies receive from 400 to 800 IU (International Unit) of vitamin D daily. More specifically, the recommended daily intake (RDI) is 600 IU for ages 1-70 and 800 IU for ages 71 and older. However, it is estimated that more than 1 billion people worldwide don’t have enough vitamin D in their blood. When our bodies don’t receive enough vitamin D, the following issues may occur:
- Excessive fatigue
- Weak, brittle bones – leading to osteoporosis
- Chronic muscle and bone pain
- Hair loss
- In extreme cases – cancer and possibly death
Since the body absorbs vitamin D through sun exposure, you would think that we would all have sufficient amounts. Unfortunately, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to obtain the required amount of vitamin D by basking in the sun alone. Not only does the sun accelerate the effects of aging, but the increasing concern over skin cancer is also causing people to spend less time sunbathing. And if time is spent in the sun, most people wisely use sunscreen of SPF 30 or more, which may reduce vitamin D production by as much as 95%. Also, many people live in climates where there is little sunshine on a daily basis.
Vitamin D-rich foods may be the answer. To ensure that you have enough vitamin D in your body each day – so you can keep your bones strong and your immune system healthy – it is wise to eat a variety of healthy foods that contain the vitamin.
WHAT ARE VITAMIN D FOODS?
Vitamin D foods are those that either naturally contain high levels of vitamin D or are fortified with it to help you achieve your RDI. Following is a guide to a delicious way to get your vitamin D:
- Fatty Fish
One of the best ways to get vitamin D into your body is from fatty fish. For example, just one ounce of herring contains 115% of your RDI. The great thing about fish is that you can bake, broil or fry it in so many different ways and in a variety of different recipes. They are also great sources of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. The following fish have the highest levels of vitamin D:
- Swordfish, 3 ounces – 566 IU
- Salmon, 3 ounces – 477 IU
- Tuna, canned in water, 3 ounces – 154 IU
- Sardines, canned in oil, 2-count – 46 IU
- Cod Liver Oil
It may taste terrible, but it packs such a powerful punch when it comes to vitamin D levels. Just one tablespoon of cod liver oil contains 1,360 IU of vitamin D. You can get this in supplement form, too.
One large egg contains 10 percent of your RDI and one large egg yolk, alone, contains 41 IU of vitamin D. Eggs are also high in protein and good sources of riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorous and selenium. They can be made in so many ways and, combined with fresh vegetables and cheese, make a complete meal.
Most mushrooms that grow in the dark won’t contain vitamin D, but certain varieties are exposed to ultraviolet light, making them a good source of vitamin D. These mushrooms contain ergosterol, a “pro-vitamin” that converts to vitamin D. They are commercially available and labeled “UV-treated” or “high in vitamin D” and contain 400 IU per 3 ounces.
- Beef Liver
Liver is definitely an acquired taste, but if you like it, it’s an excellent way to get vitamin D into you diet. A 3.5 ounce serving contains about 42 IU, or 12% of your RDI.
- Vitamin D-Fortified Foods
- Milk – Most pasteurized cow’s milk is fortified with vitamin D and contains about 30% of your RDI. In fact, one cup of fortified milk has 115-125 IU.
- Orange Juice – Certain brands fortify their juice with the same amount of vitamin D as in milk.
- Yogurt – One six-ounce serving of fortified yogurt will contain about 20 percent of your daily vitamin D needs.
- Tofu – It not only contains vitamin D, but it is also an excellent source of vitamins B2, B6, B12, and calcium. Tofu, made from soybeans, is naturally an excellent source of protein, iron, and calcium. It’s an important meat substitute for those who choose to follow a vegetarian or vegan diet.
- Cereal – Certain cereals, like whole-grain blends, are fortified with vitamin D. A single cup serving of dry fortified cereal contains about ten percent of your RDI. A breakfast that includes fortified cereal in fortified milk with a fortified glass of orange juice may provide all the vitamin D you need in a day.
If you found this article about Vitamin D Foods interesting, you may be interested in reading 10 of the Most Common Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms