While many supplement enthusiasts sing the praises of vitamins like C and
E, vitamin D has been getting more attention recently for its potential
health benefits. Vitamin D is widely known to promote bone health through
regulation of calcium, and reduce the risk of developing brittle bones,
or osteoporosis. But vitamin D receptors are found in many other tissues
in the body besides just bones, making vitamin D important for other aspect
For example, there is evidence to suggest that vitamin D may reduce the
risk for colon cancer. Limited observational data has even suggested vitamin
D may boost the immune system and provide some protection for heart disease,
hypertension, diabetes, muscle weakness, various auto-immune conditions,
and other types of cancer beyond the colon – although more research
is needed to confirm these benefits.
Despite the importance of vitamin D, it is estimated that 41 percent of
American adults are actually deficient in this crucial nutrient. So how
can you make sure you have enough vitamin D? There are three ways we get
vitamin D. One is from ultraviolet light from the sun converting cholesterol
to vitamin D in the skin. Another is by consuming foods that are either
naturally rich with vitamin D or have been fortified by adding vitamin
D. And if either of those do not work for you, then vitamin D supplement
pills can be found in most grocery stores and pharmacies.
How Much is Enough
The recommended dietary allowance, or RDA, for people between the ages
of 1 and 70 years old is 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D per
day. For infants below 1 year of age the RDA is 400 IU, and for seniors
above age 70 the RDA is 800 IU. However, some professional health organizations
are advocating for as much as 1,000 to 2,000 IU per day.
Sunshine and Vitamin D
Although sunlight can be a good source of vitamin D, the ultraviolet radiation
required to make vitamin D in the skin will also damage the cells over
time and increase the risk for skin cancer, not to mention unsightly “sun
spots” and wrinkles. So if you plan to be out in the sun especially
between the peak hours of 10 a.m. - 3 p.m., protect your skin by wearing
a hat and sunscreen.
Have More Salmon, Much More Often
Though vitamin D is present in very few foods, the absolute best place
to find it is in fatty fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines. Salmon —
a popular superfood that is also a tremendous source of lean protein and
omega-3 fatty acids — should be an easy addition to your weekly
dinner rotation, and one small fillet should provide your daily dose of
Add Mushrooms to Your Meals
Chanterelle, Morel, Shiitake, or Portobello — mushrooms are a delicious
low-calorie ingredient that you may add to boost your vitamin D intake.
Reach for sliced mushrooms at the salad bar, top your burger with sautéed
slices, or experiment with new ways to work them into pasta dishes. If
you're buying mushrooms at the grocery store, keep in mind that many
stores now carry mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light,
which increases their vitamin D levels.
Make an Omelet
Eggs are another excellent source of vitamin D, with two large eggs providing
about one-eighth of a daily dose of vitamin D. Although eggs are high
in cholesterol, they will not increase your body’s cholesterol levels
like saturated fat does so feel free to make omelets a regular breakfast
option. Just remember that the vitamin D in an egg comes from the yolk,
so it is important to use the whole egg and not just the whites.
Yes, milk does a body good, in more ways than one. In addition to containing
plenty of bone-strengthening calcium, most commercially produced pasteurized
milk in the U.S. is fortified with at least 100 IUs per 8-ounce cup. Soy
or almond milk is also an excellent option, often having similar amounts
of vitamin D fortified as cow’s milk.
Jason Jilk, MD, practices internal medicine and pediatrics at St. Jude
Heritage Medical Group in Anaheim Hills. Learn more about St. Jude Heritage Medical Group. Learn more about Dr. Jason Jilk.