Tips for consuming more vitamin D
As days grow shorter and colder, Minnesotans are forced to deprive themselves of one natural source of vitamin D — the sun.
Vitamin D is one of the few nutrients that people can pick up from sources other than food, says Lisa Harnack, director of the Nutrition Coordinating Center and a professor of epidemiology at the University of Minnesota.
“Our body can synthesize [vitamin D] when our skin is exposed to sunlight,” she said. “And, of course, in Minnesota, in the winter months, we don’t have much sun exposure.”
Why is vitamin D important
Vitamin D is essential for the developing and sustaining healthy bones and can help prevent osteoporosis.
But many Americans and Minnesotans fall short of the recommended intake of this vitamin, Harnack said. In fact, Harnack’s latest research — recently published by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association — shows vitamin D in the diet has been heading in the wrong direction.
“We recently looked at vitamin D intake in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Metropolitan area and found that vitamin D intake has been on the decline over the past 25 years,” she said. “And that’s probably because vitamin D is found in just a few foods and one of those is milk. And people are drinking less milk today than in the past.”
Tips for getting more vitamin D
Harnack explains how we can get more vitamin D through our diet.
“Dairy milk is required by federal law to be vitamin D fortified. But if you’re a soymilk drinker or a rice milk drinker, some of those products are fortified, you just need to read the label and look for one that in the nutrition facts panel indicates that it contains vitamin D,” Harnack said. “Some yogurts are fortified with vitamin D, some margarine, some orange juices are now fortified with vitamin D, and some of the breakfast cereals.”
But there are few foods that naturally contain vitamin D, Harnack said.
“There’s a limited number of foods that are naturally high in vitamin D: Oily fish, like salmon and tuna, mushrooms, liver. So, it’s hard to get the foods that are naturally high in vitamin D regularly in your diet.”
About the Nutrition Coordinating Center
The Nutrition Coordinating Center provides databases, software, training, and services for the collection and analysis of dietary data. The center distributes and supports dietary analysis software applications for the collection and coding of 24-hour dietary recalls and the analysis of food records, menus, and recipes. The center also maintains a comprehensive research-quality food and nutrient database, the only one of its kind nationally. The database of more than 18,000 foods has been in existence for 35 years.
Examples of Food Sources of Vitamin D*
Vitamin D content (mg)
|Meats and seafood that naturally contain vitamin D (by mg)|
|Salmon, 3 ounces||7.4|
|Canned tuna, 3 ounces||3.4|
|Egg, 1 large||0.7|
|Pork chop, 1, each||0.6|
Milk is fortified with vitamin D (as required by federal regulation)
|Skim milk, 1 cup||2.9|
|2 percent milk, 1 cup||3.0|
Some yogurts, cereals, and other foods are fortified with vitamin D
|Dannon Light and Fit yogurt, 6 ounces||2.0|
|Cheerios, 1 cup||1.0|
|Shedd’s Spread Country Crock tub margarine with calcium and vitamin D, 1 tb||2.0|
* Vitamin D information obtained from the University of Minnesota Nutrition Coordinating Center, Food and Nutrient Database
Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin D for adult men and women: 15 mg/day.