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We’ve known for some time that vitamin D is a superstar thanks to its role in bone health, muscle contraction, nerve signaling, and immunity. However, with the recent research showing its immune benefits as the world battles the COVID-19 virus, it’s time we revisit this fat-soluble vitamin yet again.
Nearly one billion people worldwide are deficient in vitamin D, making it a nutrient of public health concern. While that statistic is startling, don’t panic! There are proactive steps you can take to add to your daily routine to help you achieve your daily dose of vitamin D.
Here are five ways to naturally enhance your vitamin D intakes during winter, spring, summer or fall!
Sun exposure is a free source of vitamin D that naturally activates vitamin D synthesis within the body. But, the amount of vitamin D actually made from sun exposure varies greatly depending on the amount of melanin in skin, the length of time exposed to UVB rays, and if the individual was wearing sunscreen or not. Some research cites five to thirty minutes of UVB exposure is necessary to sufficiently generate vitamin D synthesis. But, keep in mind this is variable depending on a person’s genetics and where they live.
Since it is recommended to reduce one’s risk of skin cancer by proactively wearing an SPF of 15 or higher when outdoors, it’s likely that while will you will receive some vitamin D synthesis when periods of re-application extend longer than recommended, it will not be close to the necessary amount needed. Continue to seek out sunshine (when feasible) to activate natural vitamin D and follow healthcare guidelines for application of sun protection lotion as warranted.
A mainstay in many vegetarian diets, mushrooms are a great way to naturally increase vitamin D levels through food sources! While there are a variety of different mushrooms on the market, choose a mushroom that has been exposed to UV light (it will say right on the package) to get the most vitamin D bang for your buck. One half-cup portion of UV-exposed mushrooms delivers nearly 46% of the daily value of vitamin D. Try this Creamy Parmesan Polenta with Mushrooms to get your vitamin D dose in for dinner tonight!
Depending on the type of vegetarian diet you follow, eggs may or may not be in your kitchen. But, there’s a good reason why you’ll want to consider including this food in a healthy vegetarian dietary pattern: one large egg contains eight essential nutrients and 6% of the daily value of vitamin D. Given that the top food sources of vitamin D are seafood-based, eggs provide many vegetarians the option to naturally increase their vitamin D and choline needs. (Click here to read more why eggs are a great addition to a vegetarian diet based on the latest 2020-2025 dietary guidelines.) Try these Roasted Potato and Egg Tacos for breakfast, lunch, or dinner this week!
Ready-to-eat cereal is not only budget-friendly at under $.50 a serving when served with milk, but it’s also packed with 10% of the daily value of vitamin D. Pair it with a fortified cow’s milk or soy milk and you’re looking at getting in over 50% or more of your daily vitamin D needs. Choose a fortified cereal that also includes whole grains, iron, and fiber in its list of ingredients to boost the nutritional value of your meal. Try these Healthy Oatmeal Breakfast Bars for a quick and convenient snack on the go.
Fortified Milk (Cow’s or Soy)
Prefer to consume a plant-based milk alternative like soy or pea over traditional cow’s milk? That’s fine! But be sure whichever milk you choose that it’s fortified with vitamin D and calcium. This dynamic duo helps to protect your bones! One cup of cow’s milk or soy milk provide anywhere between 13 to 15% of the daily value of vitamin D. While soy and pea milk alternatives are the closest nutritionally to cow’s milk, other alternatives like almond, coconut and rice are available. Be sure to choose the right option for your dietary needs. Try this Instant Pot Hot Cocoa using whichever milk of choice you prefer!
Now, supplementation may be necessary for many who cannot adequately meet their nutritional needs via diet and environmental exposure. Speak with your healthcare team about your personal needs and dosage recommendations.