The Best Ways to Naturally Boost Your Vitamin D
I am a sun worshiper, always have been, likely always will be. Summer is certainly my favorite season and I’ll be the first to admit that I love a good beach day. A little bit of sunshine, a little bit of water, maybe even a an alcoholic beverage or two. I’ll call that a pretty darn good day. An added benefit, and maybe the reason so many people love being out in the sun, is that it is a great way to get your daily dose of Vitamin D. That’s right, I’m saying that loving the sun may be an innate instinct that allows us to keep our Vitamin D levels up. Just a thought.
So, let’s talk a little about Vitamin D.
Vitamin D is one of the four fat-soluble vitamins, along with vitamins A, E and K. It is an essential nutrient in the body and plays many important roles within the body. Some of the benefits of Vitamin D are listed below.
Supports Bone Health
Calcium seems to get all the credit when it comes to bone health but Vitamin D is also at play. This vitamin helps the body to absorb the calcium we get from food and/or supplements and is absolutely necessary for strong, healthy bones. In fact, even with calcium and phosphorus intake, we can have poor calcification of bones if Vitamin D levels are low. Vitamin D deficiency can lead to softening or malformation of bones, not a good situation for anyone.
Key Player in our Immune System
Vitamin D is involved in the maturation of white blood cells, our first line of defense against most types of infection. Therefore, making sure we have healthy levels of Vitamin D will help us to fight off bacteria and viruses that enter the body unintentionally.
Helps to Control Blood Sugar
Research has shown that the risk for high blood sugar and diabetes are higher in people who have low vitamin D levels. We also know that dysregulated blood sugar can lead to inflammation in the body and inflammation is one of the leading causes in so many modern-day diseases.
Hormone Regulator and Influencer
Vitamin D is also responsible for regulating over 2,000 genes in our body. In fact, it has been discovered that there are only approximately 3,000 genes that differentiate us from animals and 2,000 of these genes are regulated by Vitamin D. SAY WHAT??
So, you are probably starting to see my point. Vitamin D is pretty freaking important. In addition to the above, it is important for the growth of children (specifically for healthy bones and teeth), and it is helpful in maintaining the nervous system, heart function and for normal blood clotting. Again, super important.
I can hear you now, “Okay, Bess, we get it. But, how do we get it?” Good question.
First and foremost, get outside and get some sun. I am not saying to get outside and burn yourself, but expose the large surface areas of your body (arms, legs, stomach and back) to at least 20 minutes of unprotected sunlight a day (i.e. without sunscreen). Again, I am not saying to burn yourself, but it is important to have some exposure to UVB rays without sunscreen, as sunscreen will block these rays which are needed to make this important vitamin. Vitamin D is called the “sunshine vitamin” for a reason. In fact, about 50% to 90% of the vitamin is absorbed through the skin via sunlight, with the rest coming from diet.
So, how do we get it in our diet? Two words. Animal sources. Plants do not have cholesterol, the initial building block for Vitamin D3, which is the active form of Vitamin D that we want. Plants have a similar molecule called ergosterol, however, this eventually gets converted to Vitamin D2, which does not have all the benefits of the active form, Vitamin D3. If you are looking to boost your Vitamin D (particularly D3), here are 5 food sources that pack the largest punch.
Easy to come by and super versatile in the kitchen. Just 4 ounces of salmon will get you 128% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin D.
While not as commonly eaten in America, herring is a nutritionally dense fish enjoyed in many parts of the world. Try it raw, smoked, canned, or pickled. One ounce of fresh Atlantic herring contains 115% of your recommended daily intake.
Although these can be scary to try at first, they pack one heck of a nutritional punch. These small, oily fish contain an impressive array of nutrients beyond vitamin D, including healthy fats, calcium, and a variety of other minerals. Try tossing them into a salad or piling a few onto hearty crackers with a squeeze of lemon. One can of sardines (3.75 ounces) contains 63% of your recommended daily intake.
If you aren’t quite ready to dive into the herring or sardines, tuna is also a good choice when it comes to Vitamin D. A 4-ounce serving of tuna will get you approximately 23% of the recommended daily intake. My favorite way to eat tuna is mixed in with some Primal Kitchen mayo.
They call it “the incredible, edible, egg” for a reason. One of the many reasons may be that it is a great way to incorporate some Vitamin D into your diet. One egg will get you 11% of your daily recommended intake, but who really eats only 1 egg?
If you’d prefer to take a whole food supplement for your vitamin D needs, cod liver oil is an excellent source, with just one teaspoon delivering 75% of your recommended daily allowance.
So, there you have it. While daily sunshine is still the best way to get the majority of your vitamin D, these foods can be an excellent way to boost your intake of this crucial nutrient if sunshine and the beach aren’t really your thing.
Bess @ Live Simple Eat Well