Getting your daily rays of sun isn’t the only way to keep your vitamin D levels strong – there are a number of foods that pack a good punch of this essential vitamin. Let’s find out what they are and why you won’t want neglect your intake.
vitamin D is an essential nutrient for bone health, immune function, and retaining bone-building nutrients phosphorus and calcium to reducing inflammation and booting immunity. Some research even shows that vitamin D deficiency can raise your risk for autoimmune conditions, and we’ve long known that the sunshine vitamin plays an integral role in preventing osteoporosis, a disease characterised by brittle bones – in fact, studies show an alarming connection between vitamin D deficiency and osteoporosis even in children; contrary to popular belief, it’s not just older adults who develop this condition. But one of the biggest obstacles to getting the sunshine vitamin – particularly in the land downunder – is the risk of skin cancer. We’ve got some of the highest rates of this dangerous disease with nearly one in three cancer patients dealing with skin cancer, so it’s no surprise so many of us lather on the sunscreen every day and stay out of the sun where we can.
But the consequence is that our vitamin D levels plummet and with poetic irony, this too raises our risk for cancer. (But really, it seems like everything raises our risk!) Let’s take a look at the risks:
Cancer Risk: Several studies have suggested a correlation between low vitamin D levels and an increased risk of certain cancers, including breast, prostate, colorectal and pancreatic cancer, with one study finding a 14% higher rate of mortality among cancer patients with vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D plays a role in regulating cell growth and differentiation, which helps control the cell cycle and prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cells, which is a hallmark of cancer. It’s also involved in the modulation of the immune system, and good levels of the vitamin help the immune system identify and eliminate abnormal or cancerous cells. Low vitamin D levels may weaken the immune response, potentially allowing cancer cells to evade detection and destruction.
Bone Health: Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium and the maintenance of strong and healthy bones. Inadequate vitamin D can lead to conditions like osteoporosis and osteomalacia, characterised by weakened bones and an increased risk of fractures.
Immune Function: Vitamin D plays a crucial role in immune system function. Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with an increased susceptibility to infections, autoimmune diseases, and inflammatory conditions.
Cardiovascular Health: Some research suggests that low vitamin D levels may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, including hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Vitamin D may help regulate blood pressure and reduce inflammation in blood vessels.
Mental Health: Vitamin D has been linked to mood disorders such as depression and seasonal affective disorder (SAD). Adequate vitamin D levels may support overall mental wellbeing, and it’s worth checking into your levels if you’re dealing with low mood.
Diabetes Risk: Low vitamin D levels have been associated with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Vitamin D may play a role in insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.
Autoimmune Diseases: Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to various autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus. Adequate vitamin D levels may help modulate the immune response and reduce the risk of autoimmune disorders.
Mushrooms, particularly shiitake and maitake varieties, have the unique ability to produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight or ultraviolet (UV) light during growth. While the vitamin D content in mushrooms is not exceptionally high, regularly consuming them can contribute to your daily intake. Add sautéed mushrooms to dishes or enjoy a mushroom-based soup.
Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, trout, and sardines are some of the best sources of naturally occurring vitamin D. A 100-gram serving of cooked salmon can provide about 570 IU (International Units) of vitamin D, which is more than the recommended daily intake for most adults. Grilling, baking, or pan-searing fish can help retain its vitamin D content while enhancing flavour.
Cod Liver Oil
If you're looking for a concentrated source of vitamin D, cod liver oil is a potent option. Just one tablespoon of cod liver oil can provide over 1,300 IU of vitamin D. While it may not be the most appealing choice for everyone, you can find flavoured varieties or capsules to make consumption more palatable.
Many foods are fortified with vitamin D, making it more accessible in your diet. Common fortified options include milk, plant-based milk alternatives, and breakfast cereals. A single cup of fortified milk can contain around 120 IU of vitamin D. Check food labels to identify fortified products, and consider using fortified milk in your morning cereal or coffee.
Egg yolks are a natural source of vitamin D. However, the amount can vary depending on the diet of the chickens. One large egg yolk typically contains about 41 IU of vitamin D, nearly 10% of the daily recommended intake – take not that the vitamin D content will be higher in organic eggs, not to mention the protein and vitamin B12 content. Incorporate eggs into your diet by making omelettes, scrambled eggs or your classic egg and avo toast.
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