The body needs a constant supply of certain nutrients to remain healthy. Among these, vitamins often gain priority. These are chemicals that the body needs for different functions.
There are a few different vitamins that people do need to take into consideration. Studies have shown that the intake of specific vitamins may reduce the risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease1.
Vitamin D is one of the many nutrients that the human body relies on. The vitamin plays several roles in the human body.
A deficiency in vitamin D can also lead to several potential adverse effects. This includes weakness, fatigue, depression, cancer, heart disease, and even autoimmune conditions2.
We take a closer look at what vitamin D is in this post. We will also consider some of the health benefits that come with an adequate intake of the vitamin. The post also considers the best food sources of vitamin D.
What Is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is one of the many vitamins that the body needs. The vitamin plays a relatively large number of roles in the human body. This is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means the vitamin depends on fat content in food for the body to absorb it effectively.
There are several ways for a person to increase vitamin D production. The nutrient is often referred to as the Sunshine Vitamin3. This is because the ultraviolet rays that are expelled from the sun can help the body make some vitamin D. When the sun’s rays fall on the skin, then the skin uses certain chemicals to produce vitamin D.
While many sources of vitamin D do exist, a large number of people do suffer a deficiency of this nutrient. One study4 found that the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency may be as high as 26.9% in some populations.
Another study5 considered the possibility of vitamin D deficiency in some populations within the United States. In this study, a total of 4,495 samples were utilized to detect the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency.
Among the samples analyzed in the study, the prevalence of vitamin D deficiency was reported at 41.6%. This is quite a concerning prevalence, especially when the potential complications of a deficiency in vitamin D is taken into consideration.
Health Benefits Of Vitamin D
When a person obtains an adequate amount of vitamin D, there are several potential benefits that they might be able to experience. Due to the functions of vitamin D, multiple systems in the patient’s body may be affected by the presence of the vitamin.
It is crucial that people realize the functions of vitamin D. A person at risk of a deficiency in this vitamin should also take the potential benefits of increased consumption into account.
Here are a few potential benefits that have been associated with adequate vitamin D intake:
- Hypertension: Some studies have shown that an appropriate vitamin d levels in the body may be beneficial for people with high blood pressure. Some people have experienced a normalization of hypertension when increasing vitamin D intake.
- Osteoporosis: Vitamin D is also essential for healthy bones, along with calcium. Adequate intake of calcium and vitamin d together may improve bone health. This may lead to an improvement in bone density. Osteoporosis is most often associated with inadequate calcium intakes, but insufficient vitamin D contributes to osteoporosis by reducing calcium absorption
- Multiple sclerosis: Some evidence suggests that an appropriate intake of vitamin D could potentially reduce a person’s risk of multiple sclerosis.
- Heart disease: Vitamin D also plays an important role in cardiovascular health. The reduction in blood pressure is already beneficial. Increasing vitamin D intake may also lower the risk of certain heart diseases.
- Muscle tissue: is also a factor where vitamin D comes into play.
- Immunity: Vitamin D also seems to have a role to play in the immune system. A vitamin D insufficiency may lead to a weakened immune system. Increasing the intake of vitamin D may help a person to experience a healthier and stronger immune system.
- Pregnancy: The vitamin plays a role during pregnancy too. Pregnant women with adequate levels of the nutrient in their bodies have a lower risk of pregnancy-related complications.
- Cancer: Strong biological and mechanistic bases indicate that vitamin D plays a role in the prevention of, prostate, breast and colorectal cancer.
- Brain health: also relies on vitamin D. A deficiency of vitamin D has been shown to cause an increase in the risk of depression. Increased intake of vitamin D may provide other mental benefits too.
Food Rich In Vitamin D
With the benefits of vitamin D in mind, people should ensure they obtain enough of the nutrient. It is generally advised that a person obtains between 400 IU and 800 IU of vitamin D per day6.
Some studies suggest a higher intake of vitamin D may be more beneficial. These studies suggest a daily dietary intake of up to 4,000 IU.
It is possible to obtain enough vitamin D without resorting to supplements. Apart from sun exposure, there are several food sources of this critical vitamin. We will consider some of the best vitamin d foods that people can use to increase their vitamin d intake.
Salmon is most often advised for people who want to increase their intake of omega-three fatty acids. This type of fish contains an essential type of omega 3, known as DHA. In addition to its fatty acid content, salmon is also rich in vitamin D. The amount of vitamin D contained in this fish depends on how it was farmed. The type of salmon consumed also plays a role.
Some forms of salmon offer up to 124% of the daily recommended vitamin D intake per serving. Wild-caught salmon tend to contain more vitamin D than other forms of this fatty fish. A typical farmed salmon offers about 526 IU vitamin D content per 3.5-ounce serving.
Salmon is also a great source of animal-based protein. The fatty fish does not contain any carbohydrates, however, making it a perfect addition to a low-carb meal.
2) Canned Tuna
Canned tuna is one of the more convenient foods that we have available on the market today. It is effortless to store canned tuna, and the food tends to last quite a while when it is not opened.
Buying canned tuna is also generally a much more affordable option – particularly when compared to purchasing a serving of fresh fish.
A 3.5-ounce serving of canned tuna offers a person about 34% of the daily recommended vitamin D they need. This equals around 268 IU vitamin D content.
Canned tuna does contain not only vitamin D but also vitamin K and niacin. People should be careful not to eat too much-canned tuna, however. The food contains a chemical called methylmercury, which can be harmful when it accumulates in their body.
Intakes of vitamin D from food that are high enough to cause toxicity are very unlikely.
Another type of fish that is excellent for people who want to increase their intake of vitamin D would be sardines. These are small fish that do provide a good amount of vitamin D. A 3.8-ounce serving of sardines offer a person about 22% of the vitamin D they should consume each day. This equals 177 IU of vitamin D content.
Apart from vitamin D, a person should also take note of the protein content of sardines. There are about 22.7 grams of protein in a tin of sardines. This type of fish is also rich in fats. Similar to salmon, sardines contain no carbohydrates. The fish is also rich in vitamin B12, another important nutrient.
4) Cod Liver Oil
Some people are simply not fans of fish. Unfortunately, some nutrients are most prevalent in fatty fish. An example would be DHA, a crucial type of omega 3 fatty acid.
Cod liver oil is an excellent alternative to fatty fish. This product is generally available as a supplement. Most supplement stores will carry products that contain cod liver oil.
A cod liver oil supplement will generally contain a high amount of vitamin D. In fact, a single teaspoon of cod liver oil generally provides about 46% of the daily recommended vitamin D. This accounts for about 448 IU vitamin D in a teaspoon.
There are also high amounts of vitamin A in cod liver oil, as well as important omega-3 fatty acids.
There are very few plant-based sources of vitamin D. While the vitamin may be found in some plant-based foods, the concentration is often considered inadequate. When looking at plant-based foods, a person needs to ensure they eat enough mushrooms to maintain an appropriate level of vitamin D in their body. In fact, mushrooms are often considered the only good source of vitamin D in a plant-based diet.
Mushrooms actually synthesize vitamin D when it is exposed to the UV light of the sun.
It is important to note that mushrooms contain vitamin D2. This is different from vitamin D3, which is the type of vitamin D contained in animal-based sources of the nutrient. The effect of vitamin D2 is not as potent compared to vitamin D3.
6) Egg Yolks
A lot of people think that fish are the only animal-based sources of vitamin D. This is an incorrect assumption. Eggs also provide some vitamin D supplementation that can help a person obtain a larger amount of this nutrient. The vitamin D content is particularly found in the yolk of an egg.
A single egg yolk provides an estimated 37 IU vitamin D content. This is about 5% of the vitamin D that a person should obtain each day. It is quite low compared to other sources but still helps a person reach their daily goal.
Some eggs do tend to contain more vitamin D. This is particularly true when the eggs were laid by pasture-raised chickens. The chickens should roam outside to provide a higher concentration of vitamin D.
7) Fortified Foods
There are some fortified foods that people can opt for too. These are often advised for people who are following a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. Diets that these people follow do not include fish and other important sources of vitamin D. In these cases, fortified foods can help the person obtain enough vitamin D. These fortified foods will also contain other types of nutrients.
Cow’s milk is sometimes fortified with added vitamin D. In such a case, a single cup of cow’s milk may offer a person up to 22% of their daily vitamin D requirements.
8) Fortified Milk Alternatives
Many alternatives to milk are fortified for people who follow vegan diets. These products are often used to prepare cereals and coffee, but can often be enjoyed alone too. Vitamin D is only one of the nutrients that may be added to a fortified milk alternative.
Soy milk would be one of the most popular options for both vegans and vegetarians. People who are lactose intolerant to dairy products may also choose to use soy milk.
There are other examples of milk alternatives that may sometimes be fortified with vitamin D too. Almond milk is a popular alternative to soy milk.
Adequate consumption of vitamin D holds many potential benefits for the human body. Yet, there is a common concern regarding vitamin D deficiency among the general population.
People should realize the risks that come with an inadequate intake of vitamin D. This post considered some of the most important sources of vitamin D. By including these foods in a person’s daily diet, it is possible to prevent a deficiency of the vitamin.