Vitamin D is crucial for our health as it has many important roles in our organism. Among other things, it is essential for maintaining our bones healthy and strong. It’s interesting that our body is able to produce it when we expose our skin to sunlight. However, we also need to consume vitamin D foods in order to prevent a deficiency in this nutrient. Here, we will provide you with some of the richest sources of this vitamin, so try to include them in your eating plan. Don’t forget that your diet needs to be varied as our body depends on numerous nutrients.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be produced by our body when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays from sunlight. It is also present in some foods, which should be a part of your diet in order to maintain adequate vitamin D levels in your body. Vitamin D3 (also known as cholecalciferol) is the form made by the skin when exposed to sunlight while vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) can be found in food and used as a dietary supplement. This vitamin has numerous important functions in our organism, such as helping our body to absorb calcium. In addition, it is responsible for maintaining adequate concentrations of calcium and phosphate, which are the key to the health of our bones. It also enables our immune system to function normally.
Vitamin D Benefits
Since vitamin D improves the absorption of calcium and regulates both calcium and phosphate concentrations in our body, it is vital for the normal growth and health of our bones. Therefore, it can prevent softening of bones or osteomalacia in adults and rickets in children. Moreover, it lowers the risk of developing osteoporosis, which is characterized by fragile bones prone to fractures.
There are a number of studies investigating the role of vitamin D in the prevention of some serious medical conditions, including hypertension and glucose intolerance. According to a paper published in 2006, this vitamin may reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis. Another study showed that vitamin D could prevent type 1 diabetes. However, all these findings need to be supported by additional research.
Vitamin D Food Sources
There aren’t many foods naturally high in vitamin D. Some of the richest sources of this nutrient are fish liver oils and fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna fish. That’s why some food products are fortified with vitamin D. For example, milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereals are often enriched with this vitamin. Considering all the health benefits of this nutrient, it’s of great importance to include it in our diet. So let’s see what foods are high in vitamin D.
Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is one of the best sources of this nutrient vital to our health. Just one tablespoon of this oil contains 340% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin D. In addition, it is an amazing source of vitamin A.
Many types of fish, such as swordfish, belong to vitamin D rich foods. Three ounces of cooked swordfish provide you with 142% of the recommended value of this vitamin. This sort of fish is also high in niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. Moreover, it’s an excellent source of selenium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Another type of fish rich in vitamin D is sockeye salmon. A three-ounce serving of cooked salmon gives you 112% of your DV of this vitamin. This fatty fish is also a great source of vitamin B12, niacin, and thiamin. In addition to being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, sockeye salmon is packed with numerous minerals, including selenium and phosphorus.
Tuna fish is also one of the foods high in vitamin D. In three ounces of canned tuna, you will get 39% of your daily needs of this vitamin. Furthermore, this type of fish is rich in B vitamins, including niacin, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. Among other minerals, it contains selenium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Sardines are packed with various vitamins and minerals, so it’s a good idea to include them in your eating plan. Two sardines serve 12% of the recommended daily value of vitamin D. They are also a very good source of vitamin B12, niacin, and riboflavin. What’s more, they can provide you with a great amount of selenium, phosphorus, and calcium.
If you eat one fillet of Atlantic mackerel, you will cover 101% of your daily needs of vitamin D. Besides being one of the foods rich in vitamin D, this type of fish is high in vitamin B12, niacin, and vitamin B6. It’s also a great source of selenium, phosphorus, and magnesium.
Rainbow trout is another excellent source of vitamin D. In one rainbow trout fillet, you will get 67% of your DV of this nutrient. In addition, this fish is rich in vitamin B12, niacin, and thiamin. When it comes to minerals, trout is a good source of manganese and phosphorus.
Atlantic herring is one of the great sources of vitamin D since one fillet of Atlantic herring serves 39% of the recommended daily value of this vitamin. Furthermore, it is a rich source of riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.
Atlantic cod is another fish loaded with vitamins and minerals. In one fillet of this fish, you will get 25% of your DV of vitamin D. Moreover, it will provide you with thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. Atlantic cod is also rich in selenium, phosphorus, and potassium.
Haddock has a mild taste so even people who don’t prefer fish can easily add it to their diet. One fillet of cooked haddock contains 5% of your daily value of vitamin D. Besides belonging to the foods with vitamin D, this type of fish is high in niacin, vitamin B12, selenium, and phosphorus.
Whitefish is also a great source of vitamin D. A three-ounce serving of this fish provides you with 51% of your DV of this vitamin. Moreover, it is rich in niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. Whitefish is an excellent source of various minerals as well since it contains phosphorus, selenium, and potassium.
Sturgeon offers a number of health benefits as it’s a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Three ounces of cooked sturgeon can cover up to 55% of your daily needs of vitamin D. In addition to being one of the foods that have vitamin D, this fish is high in niacin, vitamin B12, and phosphorus.
Besides fish, some types of meat also contain a certain amount of vitamin D. For example, three ounces of cooked beef liver has 11% of the recommended daily value of this vitamin. What’s more, this type of meat is an amazing source of B vitamins, including riboflavin and vitamin B12.
One large egg contains 10% of your DV of vitamin D. Since there aren’t many vitamin D sources that vegetarians can eat, they should definitely include eggs in their eating plan. Moreover, this animal product is an amazing source of other vitamins and minerals as well.
One cup of milk can cover around 30% of your daily value of vitamin D as this nutrient is normally added to this food product. Milk is also a great source of riboflavin, vitamin B12, calcium, and phosphorus.
Yogurt is also usually enriched with vitamin D, so we can add it to this vitamin D foods list. Depending on the brand, this dairy product provides different amounts of this important nutrient. It is highly nutritious as it contains various B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals.
Margarine has a similar taste like butter, but it’s made from vegetable oils. One tablespoon of fortified margarine can cover 15% of your DV of vitamin D. Margarine is not generally rich in vitamins, but it contains vitamin A and vitamin E.
Cheddar cheese is another source of vitamin D suitable for vegetarians. One cup of diced cheddar cheese has 4% of your daily value of this vitamin. It’s also a great source of vitamin A, riboflavin, and numerous minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.
There is a very limited choice of vitamin D foods vegan people can eat as this vitamin is not naturally present in fruit and vegetables. Fortunately, some food products are enriched with vitamin D, including fortified breakfast cereals. However, the amount of the vitamin they provide differs among brands, so you need to read the label carefully.
Vitamin D is also added to orange juice, which is practically the only fruit product rich in this vitamin. Again you should check product labels to find out how much vitamin D has been added.
Recommended Daily Intake
The recommended daily values for all the nutrients are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes, which was developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB). The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for vitamin D are based on the daily requirements of healthy people. Since people produce different amounts of this vitamin under the influence of sunlight, these values were established for minimal sun exposure.
So if you’ve been looking for the answer to the question “How much vitamin D should I take?”, you should know that this depends on your age and sex. The RDAs for this vitamin are presented below:
- From birth to 12 months – 10 mcg (400 IU)
- From 1 to 70 years – 15 mcg (600 IU)
- 70+ years – 20 mcg (800 IU)
The RDAs for vitamin D are given in both International Units (IU) and micrograms (mcg), where 1 mcg is equal to 40 IU.
Vitamin D Deficiency
A deficiency in vitamin D is usually the result of an inadequate diet lacking foods rich in this nutrient or insufficient sunlight exposure. For example, people who are allergic to milk, have lactose intolerance or follow a vegan diet are more likely to develop this kind of deficiency. It can also be caused by some medical conditions when the kidneys are not able to transform vitamin D from food or sunlight into its active form or when the absorption of this vitamin is impaired.
Low levels of vitamin D may cause rickets and osteomalacia. Rickets in children is characterized by soft bones and skeletal deformities. Thanks to adding vitamin D to milk and using vitamin supplements, this disease has become rare. Some of the symptoms that adults can experience if they have low levels of vitamin D include bone pain and muscle weakness. This condition can lead to osteomalacia or soft bones.
Who Should Take a Vitamin D Supplement?
Supplements are recommended to those who can’t obtain enough vitamin D from food or sunlight exposure. Since human milk doesn’t provide a sufficient amount of this vitamin, breastfed infants need to receive vitamin D supplements. Furthermore, the elderly tend to have lower levels of vitamin D as their skin loses the ability to produce vitamin D efficiently. In addition, they usually spend less time outdoors. Other people who also spend most of their time indoors or who wear clothes that cover most of their skin are at higher risk of developing a deficiency in vitamin D.
People with dark skin should eat more foods with this nutrient or take supplements as their skin have a reduced ability to synthesize vitamin D. Moreover, some medical conditions, such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease, decrease the absorption of dietary fat and consequently, people with these conditions may have lower concentrations of vitamin D, which is fat-soluble. Another group at risk of becoming deficient in vitamin D includes obese people or those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery. So, depending on your diet and sunlight exposure, you should find the best vitamin D supplement for you.
Vitamin D Side Effects
High intakes of vitamin D can cause adverse health effects and may even be toxic. The symptoms of vitamin D toxicity include weight loss, anorexia, and heart arrhythmias. An excessive amount of vitamin D may also damage the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys as it can increase calcium levels in the blood. That’s why the FNB established Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for this nutrient.
While high doses of supplements can lead to toxicity, it is unlikely that consuming too much food with this vitamin can cause negative effects. Also, vitamin D toxicity is not caused by excessive sun exposure. Therefore, if you need dietary supplements, you should stick to the vitamin D dosage prescribed by your physician.
Vitamin D is of great importance to our health. It is responsible for maintaining our bones and teeth strong and healthy. In addition, it contributes to the normal functioning of our immune system. Since there aren’t many foods naturally rich in this vitamin, certain food products are fortified with vitamin D. Fortunately, our body is able to synthesize this vitamin when our skin is exposed to sunlight. However, many people need to take supplements as their diet doesn’t provide them with a sufficient amount of vitamin D or their exposure to sunlight is limited. On the other hand, too much vitamin D can also be harmful to our health, so never take dietary supplements without consulting with your doctor.
What is vitamin D good for?
Vitamin D is essential for a number of processes in our body, and therefore it has numerous health benefits. Since it contributes to the regulation of calcium and phosphate levels, it is crucial for the growth and health of our bones. Vitamin D may prevent rickets, osteomalacia, and osteoporosis. In addition, it is responsible for the normal functioning of our immune system. This vitamin has also been related to the prevention of some serious medical conditions, such as hypertension, multiple sclerosis, and glucose intolerance, but more research should be done to examine the role of vitamin D in preventing these conditions.
How can I increase my vitamin D level?
Vitamin D is not found in as many different foods as some other vitamins. Fortunately, our body can produce this vitamin when we expose our skin to sunlight. This way, we can obtain a great amount of vitamin D. The richest sources of this important nutrient are various types of fish and fish oil. Moreover, it is added to some food products, such as cereals and dairy products. If your diet doesn’t provide you with a sufficient amount of vitamin D, you should consult with your physician about vitamin supplements. However, be careful as taking high doses of vitamin D can have adverse effects on your health.
What happens if vitamin D is low?
Low levels of vitamin D cause rickets in children. This medical condition affects bone development and can even lead to skeletal deformities. On the other hand, adults who are deficient in this vitamin may experience bone pain and muscle weakness as typical symptoms of vitamin D insufficiency. They are also at risk of developing osteomalacia, which is characterized by soft and weak bones.
How do you treat low vitamin D levels?
It is recommended to include more vitamin D-rich foods in your eating plan. However, diet alone is usually not enough for the treatment of low levels of this vitamin as there aren’t many sources that have a high content of vitamin D. Therefore, you should turn to vitamin supplements in order to raise the level of this nutrient. It’s important that you always take dietary supplements according to your doctor’s advice.
What is a good source for vitamin D?
The best sources of this vitamin are fish liver oils and various types of fish. Fatty fish are particularly rich in this vitamin, such as tuna and salmon. Other types of food contain little or no vitamin D, so some food products, such as milk, cereals, and orange juice, are usually enriched with this vitamin.
Which fruit contains vitamin D?
Unfortunately, there isn’t any fruit rich in vitamin D. Generally, there aren’t many vitamin D foods that naturally contain this vitamin. The only fruit product that you can consume in order to increase the concentration of this important nutrient is fortified orange juice.