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7 Foods High in Vitamin D

Try these healthy foods to get the sunshine vitamin into your diet


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From head to toe, vitamin D, also called the sunshine vitamin, supports both brain and body. Our bodies produce vitamin D after exposure to sunlight or through absorption from some foods. Vitamin D helps keep bones strong and muscles moving. Deficiency is linked to memory problems and troubled sleep.

Research suggests that approximately 35 percent of adults in the United States are deficient in D.

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According to the National Institutes of Health, you need:

  • 15 micrograms (mcg)/600 international units (IU) per day for adults 19 to 70 years old
  • 20 mcg/800 IU per day for those 71 and older

Not many foods are rich in vitamin D. Here are seven that can help you get your daily dose.

1. Cottage cheese

Do you need a D pill?

Aging interferes with the skin’s ability to make vitamin D. Some older people have trouble getting enough of the vitamin through sunshine or food. Find out more in 3 Supplements You Might Actually Need After Age 50.

Cottage cheese, made from curds that form when milk curdles, originated in farmhouses and cottages as a way to use up excess milk that’s about to turn sour. Cottage cheese fortified with vitamin D is an unexpected but good source of the sunshine vitamin. Since vitamin D helps with the absorption of calcium, which is plentiful in cottage cheese, the addition of D can help these two crucial vitamins work together.

2. Egg yolks

Egg yolks are a stellar source of natural vitamin D, which some studies have linked to protection against memory loss and forgetfulness. Aside from fatty fish, eggs are one of the only natural sources of vitamin D in the diet. The form of vitamin D present in egg yolks may be more potent than previously thought.

3. Sardines

We all need vitamin D to help keep bones, teeth and muscles healthy. The body absorbs calcium, the primary component of bone, only when vitamin D is present. The best food sources of D are oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Other foods rich in D include red meat and liver.

4. Salmon

Salmon’s been widely publicized as a good source of vitamin D, but there’s a variation in vitamin D content between wild and farmed salmon. Some research comparing the two found that wild salmon had twice as much D as farmed salmon. Whichever you opt for, salmon can be a healthy part of your diet because it benefits both the heart and brain. A 6-ounce serving of wild Atlantic salmon, for example, provides nearly a day’s worth of D. Cook up a couple of servings tonight and save one for a lunchtime sandwich tomorrow.

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 5. Mushrooms

Are mushrooms a good source of vitamin D? Sometimes. Most mushrooms sold in supermarkets are grown in dark mushroom caves and have little or no vitamin D. However, according to several studies, if you place white button mushrooms in the midday sun for as little as 15 to 20 minutes, they’ll form sufficient vitamin D to provide the recommended amount you should have each day. To up the D content, place them gills up. Some grocery stores also sell mushrooms that have been treated with UV light to increase their D levels.

6. Fortified cereal

How do you know if your breakfast cereal is fortified with vitamin D? The easiest way to find out is to check the nutrition label on the box or container. Find the listing for Vitamin D: If it says 0%, your cereal is not fortified. The FDA recently approved increases to the fortification levels of vitamin D in cereals and grain-based snack bars.

7. Milk and milk alternatives

Most milk in the United States is fortified with about 120 IU of vitamin D.  If you’re not much of a milk drinker, though, getting sufficient vitamin D can pose a challenge. Milk alternatives — including soy, almond, rice and coconut milk — may be the answer because they’re often fortified with vitamin D. You can get up to 205 IU of D in one glass of your favorite milk substitute. Most of these nondairy milks contain added vitamin D, but don’t count on it. Read the nutrition label.

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A Day’s Worth of D

Should we seek to load up on D willy-nilly? Certainly not. As with most things in life, just enough is just right. Here’s a sample menu for working a healthy amount of vitamin D into your day. If you can get some sunshine for 10 to 15 minutes, that’s even better.

In the morning

Orange juice

A glass of orange juice fortified with vitamin D gives you a sunny start to the day. A cup of vitamin-D enriched juice weighs in at only 117 calories and provides 100 of the recommended daily 600 IU for adults 51 to 70 years old. If you’ve passed your 70th birthday, the recommendation for D jumps to 800 IU daily.

Cold cereal

Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in American diets, so pour yourself a bowl of your favorite crunchy cereal, fill the milk pitcher and sit down to a vitamin-D rich breakfast. The Food and Drug Administration recently gave the green light to cereal manufacturers to add more vitamin D to breakfast cereals and grain-based snack bars.

A cup of milk and a serving of cereal provide almost half of the recommended daily D.

Lunchtime

Heading out the door? Pack your lunch bag with a sliced apple and a chunk of D-fortified cheddar cheese. Apples are rich in the plant-based thickening agent pectin, which regulates the digestive system and lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol. The cheese helps prevent cholesterol buildup in the lining of blood vessels. A chunk of fortified cheddar provides nearly half of the recommended daily D amount.

What’s for dinner?

How about scrambled eggs or a frittata and a small salad? Egg yolks are one of the only natural food sources of vitamin D in the diet. A couple of scrambled eggs provide almost all the D you need for the day.

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