Won-D-ful: Why You Need Vitamin D, and Where to Find it

While you might be learning more and more about why vitamin D is so important to your wellness, getting enough of this crucial nutrient is another matter. Yes, vitamin D can guard your wellbeing against diseases, but the average western diet doesn’t provide enough D power to achieve this, nor does your fear of too much carcinogenic natural sunlight on your skin. According to data collected in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 40% of men, 50% of women and 70% of children have low levels of vitamin D.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have set guidelines recommending you get 400 IUs of vitamin D every day, while anyone under the age of 18 should consume 200 IUs. Not only does vitamin D increase your calcium absorption, which is vital in preventing bone loss, insufficient vitamin D is associated with a higher incidence of chronic and life-threatening conditions such as various cancers, heart disease, diabetes, multiple sclerosis and cognitive decline. In fact, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) state that healthy amounts of vitamin D can impede inflammation, which is a key component of many illnesses. So, where can you get your vitamin D fix?

1. Here comes the sun: If you let it, the sun could provide your body with 80% of your daily vitamin D needs but Dr. Mark Hyman, founder and medical director of the UltraWellness Centre in Lenox, Massachusetts, asserts that wearing sun cream blocks about 97% of your body’s vitamin D production. Let’s be clear, no one is saying you should put your skin at risk to melanoma, but you can still take advantage of the sun’s benefits. If you’re fair-skinned, Hyman says you need less than 30 minutes of casual exposure to sun on bright days to meet your daily requirement, while darker-skinned individuals need about two hours.

2. Tastes a bit fishy: Ok, cod liver oil has never had the best reputation in terms of taste, but this fish oil now comes in slightly more palatable flavoured varieties, so you have no excuse for not giving it a second chance. The Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, which conducts nutrition research, points out that 340% of your daily vitamin D needs are in one tablespoon of cod liver oil. As an added bonus, cod liver oil is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which is essential for good health.

3. Gone fishin’: If cod liver oil still doesn’t float your boat, try salmon. You can get this seafood in fresh, frozen or tinned form, but the Alliance for Natural Health USA, an education and advocacy group, asserts that wild salmon contains the highest level of vitamin D found in any food, and four times the amount present in farmed salmon. The US Department of Agriculture’s National Nutrient Database also recommends tuna as a solid source of vitamin D, protein and omega-3s, containing 200 IUs of vitamin D in a three-ounce serving.

4. Got milk: There are natural levels of vitamin D in cow’s milk, whether in skimmed or whole form, but manufacturers often also fortify milk with the nutrient. This is according to the Linus Pauling Institute, who add that one cup contains about 100 IUs.

5. There’s mush-room for vitamin D: In April, the the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology published a study that showed that exposing white button mushrooms to ultraviolet B light for a few hours increases their vitamin D content by 400%. If you buy your mushrooms from a grocers or supermarket, leaving them outside in the sun will increase their vitamin D content, but be warned that the mushrooms will dry out and turn brown after about a day.

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