For those of us with New Year's resolutions of getting in shape, a nutritious, clean, and vitamin-filled diet will make your work out regimen a little less painful. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption in our bodies and plays a big role in keeping bones strong. It also helps keep our immune systems functioning, reduces inflammation, and has a hand in healthy cell growth. Vitamin D is clearly an important nutrient to focus on.
The most commonly known way to get a healthy dose of vitamin D is to spend some time in the sun. But with the shorter days and colder weather, getting out in the sun to soak up some vitamin D can be hard. While vitamin D isn’t as easy to find in food as its cousin vitamin C, it is still possible to focus your wintertime eating habits on foods that can help ensure you’re not missing out on this vital nutrient during the months you’re less likely to be in the sun.
Vitamin D is measured in International Units (IUs), 400 IUs of vitamin D make up the recommended daily value (DV) for adults. The most vitamin D packed foods have IUs measuring in the low- to mid-hundreds, but many other edible sources register IUs in the double digits. If you can find something that offers 20% of your daily value of vitamin D it’s considered a reasonably high source.
Some foods are naturally richer in vitamin D while others are fortified with the nutrient. Next time you’re planning your menu keep these vitamin D rich foods in mind to create more notorious meals.
Quite a few fish appear on the high vitamin D list, particularly the fattier ones. Some reach as high as 500 IUs – accounting for your entire recommended daily value. Here are a few great fishes you can start keeping an eye out for.
- Swordfish: 566 IUs for a 3 ounce cooked steak
- Sockeye Salmon: The same portion packs 447 IUs
- Canned Tuna: 3 ounces of water-packed tuna will give you a 154 IU boost for 39% DV
- Canned Sardines: 2 sardines that are packed in oil have 46 IUs, much lower than the other fish options but still accounting for 12% DV
Opting for salmon gives you a lot of great meal options. You can eat cold smoked salmon for breakfast, add salmon (or canned tuna) to a salad, or host a nice dinner party and impress your friends with cedar plank salmon paired with your favorite veggie dish.
Mushrooms soak vitamin D up from the sun and happily pass it on to you. Choosing the right type of mushroom is important if your goal is to eat them as a delicious source of vitamin D. You’ll want to specifically find varieties that are grown in the sun or with ultraviolet light. Letting your mushrooms sit in the sun for a bit (no more than two days) before eating can also boost their vitamin D content.
- Maitake: 1 cup diced can yield about 780 IUs
- Portabella: 1 cup of sliced portabella has more than 600 IUs
- Chanterell: A cup of these bad boys raw has more than 100 IUs
Swap that beef burger out for a portabella burger! Or mix some healthy handfuls of diced and sliced mushrooms into your favorite winter soup or stew.
Lower in vitamin D but something that is likely already in your refrigerator, an egg yolk has about 41 IUs per serving, or about 10% of your daily value of vitamin D.
Having an egg or two for breakfast (making it a mushroom omelet is even better!) or adding a hardboiled egg to your salad for lunch is an easy way to add a bit more vitamin D to your daily diet. Be careful to balance getting vitamin D from eggs with the added cholesterol these little snacks pack.
Because it’s a bit hard to find a sufficient amount of vitamin D from foods alone, beverage manufacturers have begun fortifying their drinks with the nutrient – particularly milk and orange juice.
- Milk: One cup of milk (your choice as long as it’s the cow variety) can have up to 125 IUs of vitamin D, or around 30% DV, if it’s fortified
- Orange Juice: The amount of vitamin D varies based on the producer, but some varieties of orange juice and have upwards of 137 IUs – 34% DV. Check the product label for the exact amount of your daily value.
Either of these options are great for adding to a smoothie with fresh fruit or greens.
Stay Healthy This Winter
Our immune systems are under attack during the winter cold and flu season, so doing everything in our power to protect our health is particularly important this time of year. Since vitamin D plays a part in keeping our immune systems strong it’s important to make sure you don’t become vitamin D deficient during the winter.
Add a few vitamin D rich foods to your shopping list each week and keep an eye on food labels to see what other pantry staples might be fortified with this handy nutrient. And if the sun happens to peek out, spend a little time soaking it up.