Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that affects many vital processes in your body, including maintaining strong bones and bolstering the immune system. However, many people do not get enough vitamin D; in Europe, it is estimated 40% of the population has low vitamin D and 13% has a severe deficiency (Amrein et al., 2020). Many of these individuals may live with an unnoticed deficiency due to a lack of obvious symptoms. How much vitamin D you need depends on your age and slowly increases over your lifetime. Have you been diagnosed with low vitamin D or are you interested in boosting your levels during the dark winter months? Read on for 5 easy ways to boost your vitamin D.
1) Get more sunlight
Vitamin D is referred to as “the sunshine vitamin” because your skin begins producing it when it is exposed to the sun’s UV rays. Most people get sufficient vitamin D from sun exposure alone. 10-30 minutes of sun exposure several times a week are recommended to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. However, people living in countries without a lot of sunlight, who cover their skin in clothes or sunscreen, or who have a darker skin tone may need more time to get enough vitamin D. Furthermore, people who do not go outdoors often or live in a country with cloudy weather may not get enough vitamin D from sunlight, particularly in the winter months.
2) Eat fatty fish and seafood
Fatty fish and seafood are some of the best natural sources of vitamin D. While where the fish is caught impacts its vitamin D levels, an 100g serving of farmed salmon can contain more up to 66% of your daily recommended vitamin D intake, with wild salmon containing even higher amounts (USDA, 2015). Both fresh and canned fish are high in vitamin D, and can be cooked in a variety of ways to suit your taste. Fish and seafood rich in vitamin D include:
3) Eat fortified foods
Since few foods contain high levels of vitamin D naturally, certain foods are fortified with this nutrient to ensure more of the population receives it in their diet. As food fortification policies vary by country, check the label of foods to see if there is vitamin D added. Commonly fortified foods are:
- Breakfast cereals
- Cow’s milk
- Plant-based milks (almond milk, soy milk)
4) Take supplements
If you have trouble maintaining your vitamin D levels from diet and sunlight exposure, supplements are an effective way to ensure you are getting enough of this nutrient. It is recommended to first test your Vitamin D levels to see whether supplementation is needed and to determine the appropriate dose. Homed-IQ’s Vitamin D Test and Inflammation & Vitamin D Test allow users to check their vitamin D levels easily from home. As the test results come in the form of a laboratory report, they can be then brought to your doctor for medical advice if needed.
There are two main forms of vitamin D: D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). D2 is produced from plants, while D3 usually comes from animals. Research has found that D3 is significantly more effective at raising vitamin D levels in the body. However, as most D3 comes from animals, vegans should look for a specific type of vegan D3 or use D2 supplements. For most people, a daily dose of 1000-4000 IU is safe. You should only take higher doses of vitamin D if recommended by your doctor. While vitamin D is essential for good health, excessive use of supplements when not needed can cause negative health effects.
5) Include egg yolks and mushrooms
For those that do not eat meat, egg yolks and mushrooms are good vegetarian sources of vitamin D. However, the amount of sunlight the chickens and mushrooms were exposed to highly influences the vitamin D content of resulting eggs and mushrooms. As such, pasture raised eggs usually have a higher vitamin D content as the chickens had access to the outdoors. Similarly, mushrooms grown outdoors usually have more vitamin D. However, you can also buy farmed mushrooms processed with UV light to increase their vitamin D content. If you choose to consume wild mushrooms, be sure to purchase them only from a trustworthy source or identify them carefully, as poisonous varieties also exist.
Amrein, K. (2020, January 20). Vitamin D deficiency 2.0: an update on the current status worldwide. Nature. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41430-020-0558-y?error=cookies_not_supported&code=f800b943-2f57-412b-b043-b411e251b240
FoodData Central. (n.d.). Retrieved October 27, 2022, from https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html
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