Also known as the sunshine vitamin, Vitamin D is necessary to support healthy bones and may reduce risk of certain cancers, autoimmune diseases, hypertension and heart disease. Our bodies are able to produce and store adequate amounts of the vitamin with as little as 5 to 15 minutes of sun exposure [without sunscreen.] Those who live in the northeast should pay special attention to their vitamin D intake between the months of October and May. As winter approaches, the days become shorter and we start heading indoors limiting our ability to get the sunlight required.
In addition to your location, there are other variables that can affect your vitamin D status, such as season, skin color, body fat, sunscreen use, and aging. Be sure to speak to a healthcare professional about testing your blood level to determine if supplementation is necessary. Optimally, blood levels should be above 30 ng/mL with some practitioners recommending higher levels based on an individual’s disease risk. If your level is below 20 ng/mL you may need a prescriptive dose of vitamin D to get you to a normal level, followed by regular supplementation to maintain that level. The current Recommended Daily Allowance [RDA] is 600 international units [IU] for ages 1-70 and 800 IU for those over 70. However, it is expected that this recommendation is going to increase as many experts advise more than 2,000 IU per day.
It is important not to self-diagnose deficiency or supplement before understanding your personal vitamin D status – be sure to speak to your healthcare professional about what supplementation might make sense for you. Considering that it is an oil-soluble vitamin which can be stored by the body, you may not need to supplement everyday, especially if you regularly eat foods that contain vitamin D.
Here are some foods you can consume that contain respectable amounts:
Wild caught, fatty fish:
Salmon and mackerel are both good sources of vitamin D. Keep canned varieties on hand to add to salads. Try this recipe for our Sheet Pan Salmon for a quick weeknight meal.
Only mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light will contain vitamin D – cultivated mushrooms from large scale producers are usually grown indoors. Look for mushrooms, like Monterey Mushrooms, that state they contain vitamin D – these mushrooms have been exposed to light before being harvested. Our team loves this hearty Healthy Creamy Mushroom Soup – the perfect comfort food.
Yogurt and other products made with fortified dairy will contain vitamin D. Many non-dairy yogurts and milks are also fortified. Fortified means that the vitamin was added during the processing period. Enjoy this Strawberry Almond Chia Pudding that combines chia seeds and yogurt for a protein-rich breakfast.
For years it was thought that the yolk of eggs, which is rich in cholesterol, contributed to heart disease. Now that the stigma surrounding them has been lifted, they are back on the menu for most individuals. Vitamin D is oil-soluble and is only found in the yolk, so we include whole eggs in our recipes, like this Chard, Tomato, and Zucchini Frittata. If your healthcare provider suggests limiting consumption of yolks, simply swap 1/2 the eggs for egg whites.
Written by: Jenna Peters, Dietetic Intern, College of St. Elizabeth
Reviewed and edited by: Jeanne Petrucci, MS, RDN