Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone…Well, I guess it’s time to include some of these vitamin D foods into your daily diet then, especially during winter.
Maybe a ray of sunlight hasn’t touched your face in months. Maybe you’ve forgotten to get a good vitamin D supplement…whatever the reason you think you might need a little boost of natural vitamin D, this short list of foods that are high in vitamin D can help!
Your body needs plenty of vitamins and minerals in order to function properly, some more than others. Some vitamins need to be taken additionally or prescribed by a doctor, but most of them can be naturally ingested as they can be found in all sorts of food. For example – vitamin D!
Vitamin D is quite important but sadly, hard to acquire especially during winter due to the short hours of sunshine.
Thankfully, there are plenty of foods that you can enjoy during winter from which you can get some of this nutrient and increase your vitamin D supply. Read on to find out what they are so you can add them to your grocery list.
What exactly is vitamin D and why is it important?
Vitamin D is actually not a vitamin, but a steroid hormone. A steroid hormone we need for essentially, well, being alive and healthy.
You can find vitamin D in two forms – vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). These two forms of vitamin D have pretty much have the same function. The main difference is in their molecular structure.
So what does vitamin D do?
To answer shortly – many things. But probably most importantly, Vitamin D is needed to help maintain your body’s calcium levels and balance. How that works is that it increases your intestine’s ability to absorb calcium from foods so that in turn, calcium can go and be used for maintaining your bone health. (source)
Not only does vitamin D help preserve your skeleton and protect it against osteoporosis and bone fragility, but it also has other important roles:
- For your muscles. Vitamin D helps keep your muscles at optimal strength and functionality, which reduces the risk of muscle atrophy and other musculoskeletal illnesses.
- For your immune system. Vitamin D is essential for proper immune function. So much so that in the past sunlight and cod liver oil (both sources of vitamin D) were used to treat patients with tuberculosis (source). Adequate vitamin D levels in your body are important to keep you protected from infections, autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and/or cancer.
What happens if you’re vitamin D deficient?
If you’d like the short version – quite unpleasant things. The longer version? Well, prolonged vitamin D deficiency can result in:
- Rickets. This is the first ever case of a consequence caused by the lack of vitamin D. It was mostly seen in children – they had stunted bone growth or abnormal growths on their bones, which caused them pain and inhibited their normal day-to-day life. (source)
- Osteopenia, osteoporosis and muscle weakness. In adults, the consequences of long-term vitamin D deficiency aren’t much better. With any of the above mentioned health problems, people can increase the risk of their bones fracturing, falls due to body swaying and decreased structural support. (source)
- Frequent infections. Vitamin D is extremely important for the proper function of first-line immune defense aka the innate immune system. This is the part of the immune system that protects us getting sick in the first place when we come in contact with bacteria or viruses. (source)
- Different types of cancer. Breast, colon, prostate and other cancers have been associated with insufficient vitamin D levels. Whether it is the sole cause or not – that cannot be fully confirmed. However, it is a fact that people who have higher vitamin D levels have a much lower chance of developing cancer. (source)
- Autoimmune disease. Research suggests people deficient in vitamin D are more likely to develop an autoimmune disease like multiple sclerosis, diabetes type I, rheumatoid arthritis or irritable bowel disease (source). and Children who were given additional vitamin D when young were then monitored for 31 years and results showed that they were 78% less likely to develop the illness. (source)
And those are just a few of the negative consequences of prolonged vitamin D deficiency. It is so important to keep that in check and to improve your vitamin D intake!
How to get vitamin D
Now the good news is, there are multiple ways to get enough vitamin D and prevent (and get out of) all of those gloomy scenarios!
- Firstly, you can get and make plenty of vitamin D for free when you combine sunshine with the magical biological equipment of your skin! Vitamin D’s other name is the ‘sunshine’ vitamin. The reason for this wonderful name is because you can naturally get vitamin D for free from responsible and healthy UVB exposure. (source)
- Another way to get a good amount of vitamin D, especially during the winter months is through supplementation. The recommendations differ from country to country and different institutions with safe upper limits anywhere between 2000-10,000 IU (source).
- Last but not least! A great way to get your vitamin D is through diet, by eating more foods high in vitamin D. And that’s what’s coming next!
Vitamin D Rich Foods To Eat During Winter
You have finally reached the most delicious part of this article – the 7 best vitamin D rich foods that you can add to your diet, especially during winter!
1. Fatty fish
Salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout and sardines are some of the few tasty fish you can have for lunch or dinner at least once a week in order to increase your vitamin D levels. (source)
For example, 100 grams of poached salmon provide about 14 µg or around 560 IU of Vitamin D.
Not only are these foods rich in Vitamin D, they’re also are great source of protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids that help to control inflammation. My favorite recipe when it comes to fatty fish is definitely this delicious Mediterranean Salmon Bowl.
Not only are eggs a great source of protein, they go very well with almost everything. Add them to your ramen, in your sandwich, in your soups to your pancakes…They are super versatile.
One raw extra large egg delivers around 1.12 µg 45.9 IU of vitamin D.
Eggs are super nutritious, but keep in mind that you should enjoy them in moderation due to their higher cholesterol content.
3. Cod liver oil
This comes in the form of gooey-like tablets which you ingest orally. Cod liver oil is more of a supplement than a vitamin D food and is rich in other vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids as well.
4. Mushrooms exposed to sunlight
Similarly to us humans, when fungi are exposed to UV light, they produce vitamin D! I know, I’m still fascinated.
The amount of vitamin D in mushrooms will depend on their sunlight exposure and their type. For example, a cup of sliced oyster mushrooms provides 25 IUs of vitamin D, while a cup of diced portabella mushrooms will get you about 8.6 IU of vitamin D.
The vitamin D levels in mushrooms also decrease after you store them in the fridge for a few days and after cooking. However, they are a great vitamin D food, as they still provide a good amount of the vitamin. (source)
5. Beef liver
Did you know that 100 grams of beef liver contains about 50 IUs of Vitamin D?
Well, I know. Beef liver might not be everybody’s taste, especially when you think of mouthwatering vitamin D rich foods. But you can’t say no until you’ve tried it. Try sautéing it with some onions, herbs and spices and the result will be a delicious dinner filled with vitamin D.
6. Red meat
Pork, lamb, beef – whatever you prefer! These foods are all sources of vitamin D. For example, a cup of ground beef provides around 10 IU vitamin D.
You can cook red meat with roasted vegetables, rice or pasta and enjoy occasionally. Last year, I actually came up with one of my favorite vitamin D filled recipes made with mushrooms and ground beef. You can make it in 15 minutes and you only need one skillet.
7. Vitamin D-fortified foods
Another food source of vitamin D are vitamin-D enriched foods. You will have to look for them in your local supermarket. Producers often add vitamin D to milk, orange juice, yogurt and cereals. Just take a good look at the ingredients before you buy them.
More Healthy Foods To Eat:
Well, I hope you’re inspired to add these foods that are high in vitamin D to your weekly menu. Well, at least some of them! If you’re looking for more healthy foods to add to your diet, check out these lists:
- 8 Anti-Inflammatory Herbs and Spices For Your Immune System
- 52 High-Fiber Foods To Eat Daily
- 20 Plant-Based Foods Rich In Iron
- 8oz/ 250g salmon filet
- 1 tsp basil, dry
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup lettuce, chopped
- 2/3 cup purple cabbage, chopped
- handful basil leaves
- 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 10 olives, pitted
- 2 tbsp hummus
- Rub the salmon with the dried basil, crushed red pepper flakes, and 1 clove of garlic. Let it sit like that for a few minutes while you're making the broccoli and the salad.
- For the salad chop the cabbage and massage it in a bowl with the lemon juice. Then add the lettuce, basil, olive oil, feta cheese and 1 clove of minced garlic. Mix everything well together and add salt and pepper if needed. I didn't need to do it, because the feta was very salty. You can also make the hummus, if you haven't made or bought any.
- For the broccoli, I chopped the florets and stirred them for 2 minutes in a non-stick pan with 1 Tbsp olive oil. Then I turned off the heat and covered with a lid for a few minutes.
- After that, I took out the broccoli and added the salmon to the same pan, because I don't want to wash 3 pans for one meal. I cooked it at medium/medium-high and covered with a lid, flipping halfway through. Now, you can use whole salmon filets, I had cut mine into a few chunks as you can see in the pictures. After 6-7 minutes the salmon is ready and you can start arranging the bowl.
- On the bottom, we put the salad, then add the olives, hummus, broccoli and in the middle the salmon. Add salt and pepper to taste and enjoy. This recipe makes 2 servings.
The original recipe can be found here.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 530Total Fat: 37gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 95mgSodium: 486mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 6gSugar: 4gProtein: 36g