Most of your vitamin D comes from the sun; your skin makes this vitamin when exposed to the sun, commonly called the ‘sunshine vitamin.’ However, different factors can influence the body’s ability to make vitamin D, including season, age, clothing, and sunscreen. The main factor that occurs during the winter season is the decreased exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D absorption can decrease up to 50% when the weather is cloudy due to less sun availability, leading to decreased levels among individuals during the winter season.
Why is vitamin D important?
• Vitamin D maintains healthy bones and teeth through helping with calcium absorption in the gut. It also helps in preventing rickets (a bone disorder) in children, osteoporosis, and muscle weakness in adults.
• New evidence has suggested that vitamin D may also play a protective role against cell growth in some cancers, decreasing inflammation, and plays important roles in the immune system.
• Emerging studies have linked vitamin D deficiency with the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease and hypertension.
As winter approaches, how can you increase your vitamin D levels?
Vitamin D is found in a few food sources, such as meat, specifically fish and eggs as well as some fortified products. Try adding these food sources of vitamin D into your diet to reach the recommended daily intake of 600 IU (15 ug) for 1-70 years old and 800 IU (20 ug) for 70+ years old.
Food Sources of Vitamin D:
Cod liver oil: 1 Tablespoon of cod liver oil contains about 1,360 IU (34 ug) of vitamin D.
Salmon: Salmon contains about 450 IU (11 ug) per 90g, however depending on the variety of salmon this amount may also be greater. Salmon is also a source of omega-3.
Swordfish: Swordfish, which contains about 570 IU (14 ug) per 90g. These are also good sources of omega-3!
Tuna: 90 g of canned tuna (drained, in water) contains 150 IU (4 ug).
Sardines: 2 canned sardines (drained, in oil) contain about 50 IU (1.25 ug).
Egg Yolk: Vitamin D is found in the egg yolk; however, this is also where most of the calories lie! One large whole egg contains about 40 IU (1 ug).
Fortified milk: 1 cup of whole, reduced, or skimmed milk fortified or added with vitamin D contains about 120 IU (3 ug). Choose low fat or skimmed milk to also decrease the saturated fat!
Fortified Orange Juice: 1 cup of orange juice fortified with vitamin D contains an average of 140 IU (3.5 ug), however this may vary depending on the amount of vitamin D added.
Fortified Ready-to-eat cereal: 3/4th to 1 cup of fortified breakfast cereal contains an average of 40 IU (1 ug), however this may vary depending on the amount of vitamin D added to different cereals.
*Read food labels of fortified products to check the amount of vitamin D added as these may vary among brands. Check with your doctor to get your vitamin D levels tested if you believe you are not getting the required intake.