Known as the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D is a necessary nutrient that is produced when the body is exposed to sunlight. It’s also found in a limited number of foods. From helping maintain strong bones to supporting a healthy immune system, vitamin D actually functions as a hormone in the body and has significant health benefits. But about 42% of Americans are deficient in the nutrient.
Although it doesn’t take much sun exposure to get your vitamin D fix for the day, cold temperatures, limited exposure to sunlight and concerns on increasing risk of skin cancers can make this difficult. Many require vitamin D supplementation to keep their levels consistent, but there are a few vitamin D foods that are worth adding into your diet to reap the nutritional benefits of this powerful nutrient and meet the recommended Daily Value of 20 mcg or 800 IU. Here are some of the highest vitamin D foods to incorporate into your daily routine:
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1. Rainbow Trout
This salmon relative may be a lesser known fish but offers a ton of nutritional benefits. A three ounce serving of cooked rainbow trout packs in 645 IU vitamin D, or 81% of the Daily Value, which is even more than the same serving of salmon. With a delicate flavor, this tender and flaky fish works well with different types of marinades or just the standard salt and pepper.
Not only are mushrooms packed with flavor and antioxidants, but they are one of the few vegan sources of vitamin D and also the only vegetable source of the nutrient. A 1/2 cup serving of sliced white mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light packs in 366 IU vitamin D, which meets almost half of the Daily Value. These mushroom recipes are loaded with flavor and offer a vitamin D boost for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Supercharge your health with this inexpensive but high-quality protein source. Eggs make a great addition to any meal of the day and are chock-full of essential nutrients. The yolk of the egg contains vitamin D, so opt for whole egg omelettes instead of just egg whites. One large egg has 44 IU vitamin D or 6% of the Daily Value. Our top pick is GH Nutritionist Approved Eggland’s Best Eggs which have six times more vitamin D than ordinary eggs. Try them in these easy egg recipes for your best brunch ever.
The health benefits of this popular fish are aplenty, from supporting a healthy immune system to reducing risk of chronic illnesses like heart disease and cognitive decline. Three ounces of cooked sockeye salmon contains 570 IU vitamin D, or 71% of the Daily Value. Serve up these easy salmon recipes for a healthy and tasty weeknight dinner.
This inexpensive fish is high in heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids but low in mercury. Not only do just two canned sardines contain 46 IU vitamin D, or 6% of the Daily Value, but they are also a great source of calcium which together can support bone health. Sardines are also abundant in vitamin B12, making them a popular choice among pescatarians. You can enjoy them straight from the can, add them to a salad or grill fresh sardines as you would any other fish.
6. Cod Liver Oil
One of the highest dietary sources of vitamin D, cod liver oil has been used for years to help prevent vitamin D deficiency. In addition to being rich in omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients like vitamin A, just one tablespoon of cod liver oil packs in a whopping 1,360 IU vitamin D, meeting 170% of the Daily Value. Add cod liver oil to homemade salad dressing to get your daily dose. Smoothies may be another good vehicle for sneaking in cod liver oil to your daily routine. Since cod liver oil isn’t ideal for cooking and high temperatures, it is often taken in supplement form.
Liver is chock full of nutrients, making it one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. A standard three ounce serving of braised beef liver includes 42 IU of vitamin D, or 5% of the Daily Value. Liver is used in many dishes, such as Greek Easter soup known as Magiritsa. But if you hate organ meats, other options on this list may provide a more significant dose of vitamin D anyway.
8. Fortified Milk and Cereals
A winning combination, milk and cereal don’t just make for a convenient breakfast option. These items are both often fortified with several important nutrients, including vitamin D. A cup of vitamin D fortified 2% milk contains 120 IU vitamin D, meeting 15% of the Daily Value. But you may be surprised to find that even non-dairy milk alternatives are loaded with the nutrient as well. Soy, almond and oat milks that are fortified with vitamin D are great options as well, like GH Nutritionist Approved Almond Breeze Unsweetened Vanilla Almondmilk that packs in 25% of the Daily Value in just one serving. Ready-to-eat fortified cereals meet about 10% of the Daily Value for vitamin D in just one serving, but be sure to check the cereal label nutrition facts so you don’t overdo it on added sugar.
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