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Question: I have been told that my vitamin D levels are too low. What foods have vitamin D in them, and how much should I be eating of these foods to improve my vitamin D levels?
Answer: For individuals making a conscious effort to get their fill of the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D can seem like an elusive nutrient. Normally 80 percent of our needs are met when sunlight converts cholesterol in the skin; however, we cannot rely on this source alone to provide the prescribed daily dose of 600 IU for healthy adults. (Infants less than 12 months old require 400; adults over 70 require 800).
Vitamin D is commonly recognized for preserving bone health by enhancing calcium absorption, enabling bone mineralization, and promoting bone growth to prevent conditions such as rickets, osteomalacia, and osteporosis. But the benefits are now suggested to extend far beyond the skeletal system. Vitamin D has also been shown to regulate cell growth and immune function, reduce inflammation, and potentially prevent autism, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, obesity, and osteoarthritis.
One of the greatest challenges in meeting daily requirements is the obscurity of foods containing sizeable amounts of vitamin D. The richest natural sources of D3 are the flesh and oils of fatty fish, such as herring, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna. Beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks also contain small amounts. However, the majority of vitamin D in the American diet is derived from foods fortified with D2. Nearly all milk in the U.S. has vitamin D added, as do many margarines, orange juices, breads, yogurts, and ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. Fortification of infant formula is mandatory.
Consuming the recommended daily allowance of nutrients has healthy benefits and prevents reaching toxic levels of intake, which is highly unlikely through either food or sun exposure. Toxicity usually requires ingesting large amounts of dietary supplements.
Answer provided by Jamie Johnson, RD, LD, No Nonsense Nutrition, LLC, Member of Kansas City Dietetic Association.
The Kansas City Dietetic Association is an organization of Registered Dietitians and Dietetic Technicians with expertise and interest in improving the health of Kansas City. The organization is made up of The Nutrition Experts and are the source of the latest and factual food and nutrition information.
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