Natural Sources of Vitamin D

During the winter months when the sun is at its lowest point, it's hard for most of us to get an adequate amount of vitamin D in our bodies. And the truth is that most people actually have a vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D is vital for the body's proper absorption of calcium, bone development, and immune function, among other things. Too little vitamin D can lead to debilitating bone diseases and a weakened immune system. On the other hand, too much vitamin D is no good either, and may lead to an increased risk of heart attack.

The current recommended daily value of vitamin D for children and adults is 600 IU, and since it's fat-soluble, you need to consume some fat in order for your body to properly absorb it. So besides adding a vitamin D supplement to our diet, what other ways can we increase our vitamin D intake? Below is a list of natural sources of vitamin D (along with their IUs) to help keep our bodies healthy and functioning properly.

  • Cod Liver Oil - (1,350 IU in 1 tablespoon) - Many brands of cod liver oil have the vitamin D removed, so be sure to check the label to be sure.
  • Fish - (200-900 IU) - The best kinds include salmon, mackerel, and tuna.
  • Mushrooms - (27 IU per 100g) - White button and shiitake mushrooms have the highest levels of vitamin D.
  • Eggs - (17 IU per egg) - The vitamin D is found in the yolk. Organic, farm-fresh eggs are best!
  • Ricotta Cheese - (25 IU per 1/4 cup) - About 5 times as much as most other cheeses.
  • Beef Liver - (42 IU per 3oz) - Always look for grass-fed beef.
  • Milk, fortified - (127 IU per cup) - Look for organic milk.
  • Orange Juice, fortified - (90 IU per cup) - Organic juice with no preservatives or added sugars.

And of course, the best natural source for vitamin D is good old sunshine! So when Spring comes around, and all throughout Summer, try to get outside for at least half an hour a day, a few times a week, without any sunscreen. Our bodies naturally make the best kind of vitamin D all on their own, just by harnessing the sun's powerful UV rays and converting them into the healthy vitamin D we're all looking for.

It's also a good idea to get your vitamin D levels checked by your primary care physician, but before you immediately jump to the supplements, remember there are plenty of natural ways to increase your vitamin D intake, without having to resort to pills that may not be necessary.

What are your favorite ways to increase the vitamin D intake in your diet? Anything that's not on this list?