As days get shorter and nights turn longer, the famous motto of the House of Stark (hello, GoT aficionados!) seems to set the mood perfectly: “Winter is coming”. It is, indeed, and in just a few more weeks, we will start to feel the biting cold and endure the all-too-familiar frosty mornings.
It is no secret that winter can be both dreary and brutal, as it is also during this time that the levels of Vitamin D in our body tend to drop lower with the absence of UV rays from the sun. This poses a significant risk to our health if we are not careful – so it’s better to stay informed!
What Is Vitamin D and Why Is It important
Vitamin D, or the “sunshine vitamin” as it is called, is a fat-soluble nutrient that helps absorb calcium. Calcium, on the other hand, is essential for maintaining bone health and strength. If there is not enough Vitamin D in the body, you may be put at risk for developing bone-related conditions such as rickets, osteoporosis, and osteomalacia. And it does not stop there - Vitamin D also plays an essential role in the immune, circulatory, digestive systems and, cognitive functioning.
Unfortunately, there is a high rate of Vitamin D insufficiency in the US population. According to a journal published by the Cambridge University Press, more than 41% of the adult population in the United States do not get sufficient levels of Vitamin D. The numbers are alarming and things are about to take a turn for the worst as winter approaches when many of us find it as a challenge to get enough sunlight.
But before panic-buying several bottles of Vitamin D supplements to get you through the cold and dark months ahead, there is still another option: you can make smart food choices. Even though sunlight is still the main source of Vitamin D, you can fight Vitamin D deficiency by incorporating healthy options in your food intake.
Top 3 Foods That Are Rich in Vitamin D
Make sure that you stock up on these three food items to keep your Vitamin D levels up!
The good news is you have a lot of great options in this department. Salmon is one of the most popular and a 100-gram serving (about 3.5 ounces) can get you 526 IU of Vitamin D, or about 66% of recommended Daily Value (DV).
You can also try some herring and sardines, both of which are packed with Vitamin D. Herring can be eaten raw, smoked, or pickled, and provides 112 IU per 100-gram serving. That’s about 14% of the DV. Sardines contain 177 IU or 22% of the DV. Not bad, right?
Other fatty fish include mackerel, swordfish, halibut, and (surprise, surprise) canned tuna! Canned tuna is a great alternative to fresh fish – and more affordable, too – and a 3-oz can contain 154 IU of Vitamin D, which is roughly equivalent to 25% of your daily goal.
Aside from fortified foods, the only good plant-based source of Vitamin D is mushrooms. While they don’t naturally produce high amounts of Vitamin D, some varieties of mushrooms are treated with UV light. Mushrooms can synthesize Vitamin D when exposed to UV light, thus providing a good amount of the nutrient as a result.
The easiest way to add Vitamin D to your diet is through the consumption of fortified foods. Fortified foods are produced to boost vitamin and mineral intake and are “designed” to add nutrients that are not naturally present in the product. And since nature only created a few natural sources of Vitamin D, fortified foods are mainly responsible for providing the Vitamin D needed in the American diet.
Nothing to worry about in this case because there are so many fortified food options available today – from milk, orange juice, yogurt, and tofu, to breakfast cereal, oatmeal, and cheese – that contain not just Vitamin D but also other nutrients such as calcium, zinc, riboflavin, and phosphorus.
Overall, it is still essential to get as much sunlight as possible to keep your Vitamin D levels in check. But if this is not an option, getting your daily dose of Vitamin D from food should be a priority. Just be wary of hidden ingredients like saturated fats and excess sugar that can sabotage your diets!