According to Canton Mercy Medical Center, 42% of Americans are deficient in vitamin D. This issue can result in many problems affecting most body systems and processes, including bone growth, immunity, heart disease, childhood asthma, and other issues.
Anyone can be vitamin D deficient, but certain populations are more at risk than others. Those who do not frequently go out in the sun (sunlight being one of human’s most important sources of vitamin D) will be at risk, as will older people and anyone on long-term prescription medications of various types (for heartburn or constipation, to name just two). People with dark skin also run the risk of being low in vitamin D because the increased melanin in their skin prevents sunlight from affecting it as quickly as it would in lighter skin.
The point is, if you’re reading this, you’re either vitamin D deficient or at risk of becoming that way. This is especially true in the winter, because most of us spend more time indoors due to cold weather, and may experience fewer less time in the sun when outside due to shorter days.
All things considered, the best way to make sure that your vitamin D levels are to eat the right foods. Fortunately, there is something for everyone when it comes to creating a vitamin D menu. Here are some of our best recommendations, which you can source from a local grocer at any time of year.
Fatty fish has numerous benefits unrelated to vitamin D (omega-3’s, we’re looking at you!), but vitamin D is a perk all its own. Fatty fish tend to contain a lot of vitamin D, so consider making fish a part of your schedule at least once per week. Salmon is an obvious contender for the dinner table, but you can also snack on fish in the form of herring and sardines, with much the same effect.
Harvard notes that most people low in vitamin D will need between 600 to 800 IU of vitamin D daily, though some people will need much more. It’s important that you know where you stand, so get a blood test from your doctor at your next checkup to see where your baseline is. From there, one serving of salmon can give you almost 1000 IU, and herring (and other small, oily, snackable fish) can give you about 300 IU in a 3.5-gram serving. Cod liver oil and tuna are more excellent fatty fish sources.
Cage-Free Egg Yolks
Regular commercial egg yolks significantly less vitamin D and other essential nutrients – hardly worth your while – which pasture-raised chicken eggs contain far more. This may be due to pasture raised chickens having access to sunlight, natural seeds and plants, and bugs for food; compared to chickens kept in a dark barn and fed inexpensive corn-based feed.
Mushrooms produce vitamin D when they’re exposed to UV light. What might surprise you, though, is that fresh mushrooms demonstrate this property even after they’ve been picked. So the next time you’re about to prepare a mushroom dish, set those fungi puppies out in the sunlight for an hour before you slice them up. You’ll literally be increasing their vitamin D nutritional value by taking this extra step. Vitamin D levels vary wildly by type and freshness, but always try to get the best quality available in your area for the best results.
Fortified foods like pasta and cereals have vitamin D added to them during production, so how much you can get from them will depend on several factors. If you eat certain staple foods daily, look for fortified versions that contain vitamin D.
If you can’t find enough Vitamin D in your daily diet, it’s time to reach for the supplement bottle. We specifically recommend considering Vitamin D3 Complete from Nutricology, Liquid D and K from Douglas Laboratories, or d-Pinitol 600 mg from Vital Nutrients. These products offer a few variations of the same idea: provide you the vitamin D you need this winter. Check them out and see which one works best for you, in addition to the foods mentioned above.