Vitamin D is involved in hundreds of vital processes such as bone formation, hormone activity, blood pressure regulation, immune function and cancer prevention. There are two ways to get vitamin D: bare skin exposure to the sun (ultraviolet B rays) and vitamin D supplementation. Unfortunately, sunbathing isn’t a reality during colder months. So how do we get our vitamin D in the winter? While food may not be able to supply all of the vitamin D our bodies require, it can certainly help us meet our needs. Even more, food sources of vitamin D come packaged with other health-promoting nutrients that can enhance vitamin D digestion, absorption and utilization. Below are 10 ways registered dietitian Wendy Caamano suggests upping your vitamin D intake.
1. Consider purchasing a UV light
Since the sun’s UVB rays are the best way to get your daily dose of vitamin D, consider purchasing an indoor UV-emitting light. A simple 15 minutes a day is enough to ensure your body is making enough of this important vitamin.
2. Purchase a high-quality vitamin D supplement
The vitamin aisle in stores these days is almost as expansive as the cereal aisle, making selecting a supplement rather daunting. When purchasing a vitamin D supplement, make sure to get vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) as opposed to D2. Vitamin D3 is the most active form of vitamin D, and the type our body naturally makes. Look for doses of at least 600IU.
3. Fatten up your supplement
You read that right! Consider taking your vitamin D3 supplement with a meal or snack that contains a good source of fat. Think avocados, olive oil, nuts and seeds. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning your body absorbs more of it when paired with fat. Since most vitamins do not come packaged in oil, taking your supplement with a good source of fat will help you get the most of your bottle.
4. Add fish to the menu
Fish, specifically fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, are some of the best food sources of vitamin D. Just two servings a week can drastically increase your vitamin D intake in the winter.
5. Increase intake of vitamin D–fortified foods
Many foods are fortified with vitamin D, including milk and milk alternatives, yogurt, cereal and orange juice. To maximize the benefit, aim to incorporate varieties that contain fat, like full-fat Greek yogurt, or pair orange juice with a higher-fat breakfast of eggs and avocado toast.
6. Look for seasonal mushrooms
Mushrooms are a great source of vitamin D and are in season year-round. Add some to an omelet or a stir-fry a few times a week.
7. Have eggs for breakfast
Eggs are yet another good source of vitamin D. Remember not to discard the yolk, for it’s the part of the egg with the highest amounts of vitamin D. The yolk also contains important fat to aid in vitamin D absorption.
8. Be bold and try liver
If you are up for trying new foods, liver, particularly beef and lamb liver, offers a great source of vitamin D. Ease into it by mixing with ground beef in spaghetti sauce, stews or soups.
9. Budget for a good fish oil supplement
Quality fish oils are pricey, but can be found paired with vitamin D3. The fat from the fish oil acts as a perfect package for a vitamin D supplement and offers additional anti-inflammatory properties. The two-in-one supplement can help offset the sticker shock.
10. Take up skiing or snowboarding
Altitude enhances the sun’s intensity, and can thus help our body’s natural production of vitamin D. This makes mountain sports a great way to enhance vitamin D production in the winter while also providing a fun workout. Remember, to reap the benefits, your skin must have open access to the sun.