Are you getting enough sun? In many parts of the world, that might prove difficult during the winter months — and it can impact more than your sunny disposition.When exposed to sunshine, our bodies produce vitamin D, something our bodies need to maintain healthy bones and teeth; support our immune and cardiovascular systems; and stave off certain diseases, like type 1 diabetes. Some reports suggest that roughly three-quarters of American teens and adults might not be getting enough vitamin D. So, how can you turn that number around?
How Much Vitamin D Do We Need and Where Can We Find It?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) makes recommendations for what one’s daily intake of vitamin D should be based on age, gender and other factors. The recommendations, in micrograms (mcg), can be summarized as follows:
- Infants (up to 12 months): 10 mcg daily
- Children (1 to 13 years): 15 mcg daily
- Teens (14 to 18 years): 15 mcg daily
- Adults (19 to 50 years): 15 mcg daily
- Older adults (51 to 70 years): 15 mcg daily
- Seniors (70+ years): 20 mcg daily
So, how can you supplement your vitamin D intake if all that basking in the sun isn’t cutting it? Thanks to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, we’ve rounded up 10 healthy foods that can help you reach those daily vitamin D goals.
Salmon comes in quite a few different varieties — canned sockeye salmon, smoked chinook salmon, canned pink salmon, cooked sockeye salmon, cooked pink salmon and even cooked wild coho salmon — and all of them are chock-full of vitamin D. All of these options will help you hit your goals. After all, a three-ounce serving of canned sockeye salmon contains 17.9 mcg of vitamin D, while a three-ounce portion of cooked sockeye salmon contains 11.1 mcg of vitamin D.
Want to change up that salmon intake? Whitefish can help with that. While whitefish are a species of fish, the term also refers to a cluster of types of fish, all of which have a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Some of the most popular “whitefish” include pollock, bass, cod, halibut, grouper and haddock. On average, a standard three-ounce serving of smoked whitefish contains an impressive 10.8 mcg of vitamin D.
If you’re looking for a terrific source of vitamin D, and to break up all that whitefish and salmon, try swordfish. These creatures can grow to be a whopping 1,400 pounds — and nearly 15-feet in length. While you wouldn’t want to tangle with one of these in the ocean, encountering it as a nice, grilled steak is a treat. Best of all, a three-ounce portion will provide you with 14.1 mcg of vitamin D.
Tilapia is a cluster of fish species that aren’t found in nature. That is, tilapia is a farmed fish, which makes it pretty inexpensive. This mild species is the fourth most common type of seafood eaten by Americans, in part because of its versatility. We recommend a nice herb-and-parmesan crust, but, any way you slice it (or season it), a three-ounce portion will provide you with 3.1 mcg of vitamin D.
Not into canned food? Well, canned fish should probably be your exception. In fact, canned tuna, in addition to being readily available and inexpensive, can make an abundance of tasty meals, from tuna salad and melts to casseroles. Best of all, a three-ounce serving of light tuna canned in oil contains about 5.7 mcg of vitamin D.
The five fish options we’ve listed above might not have surprised you, but this one might. Many varieties of mushrooms — including portabella, cremini, morels, chanterelles, maitake, and even your basic white button mushrooms — are excellent sources of vitamin D. In fact, half a cup of grilled portabella mushrooms delivers an impressive 7.9 mcg of vitamin D.
Eggs — and, in particular, egg yolks — are one of the easiest, cheapest and quickest ways to nab some vitamin D. However, they may not be the food of choice for folks with high cholesterol. If your diet allows, whip up two scrambled eggs and enjoy getting 5% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin D first thing in the morning.
Milk is more than just a great source of calcium. In fact, vitamin D is among its significant nutritional benefits. When it comes to a 16-ounce serving of cow’s milk, the vitamin D content varies based on the milk’s composition. For example, whole milk contains 6.3 mcg of vitamin D, while 2%, 1% and skim milk all contain 5.9 mcg. Even soy and dehydrated (powdered) milk will help you reach your goals by providing 5.8 mcg and 3.4 mcg of vitamin D respectively.
Milk is not the only dairy product capable of delivering some serious vitamin D benefits. Of course, the nutritional value of yogurt changes depending upon the variety. For example, Greek-style yogurt contains more protein and less sugar than other types of yogurt. Nonetheless, you can still expect anywhere from 2 to 3 mcg of vitamin D per eight-ounce serving, regardless of the variety of yogurt.
So far, you’ve seen lots of fish and dairy options. You might be wondering, Where’s the meat? Well, generally speaking, beef and chicken are not great sources of vitamin D. In fact, if you’re a meat lover in search of some vitamin D, pork is your best bet. The nutritional value of pork varies depending upon the cut, method of preparation and more, but you’re likely to find between 0.2 to 2.2 mcg of vitamin D in a standard three-ounce serving of pork.