Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin often referred to as the “sunshine” vitamin because the best source of vitamin D comes from the sun. Vitamin D regulates calcium metabolism and influences phosphorus, which in turn is important to strong bones. If you have a vitamin D deficiency despite adequate calcium and phosphorus levels, you may develop such things as osteoporosis. Vitamin D also seems to reduce the risk of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis, and, therefore, it’s important to obtain adequate levels of it.
If you can’t get fifteen to twenty minutes a day of sunshine, another way to obtain vitamin D is through your diet, and, luckily it’s available in both plant and animals. However, plants do not have calcitriol, a building block needed for vitamin D3, so, most doctors agree, animals-derived options are better food sources of vitamin D. Some of the best vitamin D foods include:
- Egg Yolks. Many people considered egg yolks to be cholesterol-rich and object to eggs on that basis. However, yolks also contain approximately 5 percent of your daily value of vitamin D and are loaded with A, E, and K and are rich in calcium, folate, iron, phosphorus, zinc, and vitamins B1 (Thiamine), B6, and B12. Yolks also contain magnesium, sodium, and niacin, as well as copper, manganese, potassium, riboflavin, and selenium.
- Enriched/Fortified Soy Milk. Soy milk comes from soybeans. For your body to be able to absorb the calcium added to soy milk, it is often enriched or fortified with vitamin D. However, one study showed soy milk calcium is not as well absorbed as the calcium obtained from cow’s milk, even though it’s fortified. If you’re interested in learning more about soy milk, read Almond Milk, Soy Milk, and Rice Milk.
- Fortified Milk. There are two groups of milk drinkers. Those who support pasteurized milk and those who support raw milk. Supporters of fortified milk (which is also pasteurized) claim it is one of the best sources of vitamin D and that pasteurized milk is not as likely to cause listeria, campylobacteriosis, or E. coli as raw milk. Raw milk supporters maintain pasteurized milk has added hormones and that synthetic vitamin D is not natural. Moreover, they allege things such as digestive enzymes, are removed from milk when it’s pasteurized. So, depending on which side of the issue you fall on, you may or may not want to drink fortified milk. (For more information on this issue, read Raw Milk Versus Pasteurized Milk.)
- Fortified Whole Grains. No grains can really be eaten without some milling and grinding, and many people agree the processing removes bran and nutrients. To make up for it, grains are usually fortified to make them more nutritious.
- Herring. Herring are small, oily fish that live in schools and are usually found in the temperate waters of the Baltic, North Atlantic and North Pacific, or the Mediterranean Seas. Besides being considered a great source of vitamin D, they are also great source of healthy long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.
- Mackerel. Similar to herring, mackerel contains omega-3 fatty acids, and it is usually loaded with vitamin D. However, note when I say mackerel, I am not talking about King mackerel. King mackerel is on the mercury list because it contains high mercury levels whereas regular mackerel does not.
- Mushrooms. Mushrooms, particularly shiitake mushrooms, are often lauded for their vitamin D content. Many people consider shiitakes an excellent medicinal plant, and some studies indicate they may have anti-tumor effects and immunological benefits, as well as anti-viral properties that may aid against allergies. The Agricultural Research Service (ARS) joined with Monterey Mushrooms, Inc., of California to increase vitamin D levels in white, brown and portabella mushrooms using special UV-B lights. According to Monterey Mushrooms, Inc., their new Sun Bella line provides at least 100 percent of recommended intakes of vitamin D in every 3-ounce serving.
- Sardines. Sardines are oily fish related to herrings. Nutrition Data shows that 100 grams of sardines provides more than 80 percent of your daily vitamin D requirements and that similar to herring and mackerel, they are rich in omega-3s; however, sardines also seem to have much higher cholesterol levels than herring or mackerel.
- Shrimp. Shrimp are one the most popular seafood choices in America, and that’s good because apparently 3 ounces contains about 32 percent of your daily value of vitamin D.
- Wild Salmon With Bones. Salmon, particularly sockeye salmon, is an excellent source of vitamin D. In fact, 3 ounces of sockeye with the bones contains over 160 percent of your daily value of vitamin D. It is also a great source of omega-3s, just like herring, mackerel, and sardines.