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Vitamin D: Improving Health Through Food and Sunshine

vitamin d from sunshine, the sunshine vitamin

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that we absorb from the sun and consume through foods. Keep reading to learn more about this essential nutrient including how much we need and where to get it.

Health Benefits of Vitamin D

The recommended daily amount of vitamin D for children and adults is 600 IU, with 800 IU being the recommendation for adults over 70. Research shows that there could be increased benefits from consuming as much as 800 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day for adults. Bone health is one of the main health benefits of vitamin D as it helps to prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D has also been shown to play a role in the prevention of certain diseases such as breast cancer, multiple sclerosis and schizophrenia. Additionally, some research links low blood vitamin D levels to increased risk of heart disease and death.

Food Sources of Vitamin D

There are many food sources of vitamin D, such as fatty fish, egg yolks, and fortified foods like milk/dairy products, juices and cereals. There is only one food grown from the ground that contains vitamin D, and it is mushrooms! Mushrooms are the only unfortified and non-animal product that contains vitamin D. One serving of mushrooms (100 grams) can provide about 50-100% of the daily recommended vitamin D; this varies depending on the type and UV exposure. This makes a great source of vitamin D for vegans or vegetarians. When cooking mushrooms is it best to sauté them in a pan to preserve as much vitamin D as possible! Below is a list of some other foods containing vitamin D.

  • Salmon, 3.5 ounces- 360 IU

  • Mackerel, 3.5 ounces- 345 IU

  • Canned Tuna, 3.5 ounces- 200 IU

  • Orange juice, fortified, 8 ounces- 100 IU

  • Milk, fortified, 8 ounces- 98 IU

  • Breakfast cereals, fortified, 40-100 IU

Vitamin D and Sunlight

The amount of sunlight needed to receive the recommended amount of vitamin D has many variables, but comes with the added benefit that time outside helps to improve mood and reduces stress! Our bodies convert sunlight into usable vitamin D3, and the longer we are in the sun the more vitamin D3 is produced. It is recommended to get small amounts of sun exposure every day rather than staying out in the sun for long periods of time less often. The average amount of time it takes to absorb the recommended amount of vitamin D is 10 to 15 minutes per day, with arms and legs exposed. If you live in northern states (latitudes above 37th degree north) then the sun exposure time will need to be longer since it is not as strong. People over the age of 65 need about 4 times the amount of sun exposure, and people with darker skin complexions need about 2-3 times more sun exposure than individuals with lighter skin tones. To help boost your vitamin D levels, carve out 10 minutes each day to take a short walk around the block. When going to the store, park further away to lengthen the time spent outside, or sit outside to enjoy your lunch or morning cup of coffee. If you live in an area where optimal sun exposure is not an option or you are unable to get sun exposure during the day, then supplementation of vitamin D may be the best option.

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Written by: Victoria Beuther, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern.




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