You need vitamin D for bone health and a healthy immune system. Some preliminary research suggests that vitamin D may lower the risk of some chronic health problems such as cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, depression, obesity, and some types of cancer. However, there’s no definitive evidence that getting more vitamin D if you already have a vitamin D level in the normal range has added benefits.
The most recent research fails to show a connection between vitamin D and the prevention of any disease, yet you still need it for health. Many people fall short of getting enough vitamin D. Studies suggest that a low or borderline-low vitamin D level is typical, especially in older people and those with darker skin. Therefore, most people could use more vitamin D. Could this apply to you? If you’re looking for vitamin D sources, here are your options.
The best way to get enough vitamin D is to expose your skin to sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes at least four days per week. When the ultraviolet rays from the sun hit your skin, it converts a compound called dehydrocholesterol on the surface of your skin to a vitamin D precursor. In turn, your liver and kidneys transform the vitamin D precursor into active vitamin D.
Although 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure most days is sufficient to supply the average person with enough vitamin D, people with darker skin and those who are over the age of 60 or obese need more sun exposure to achieve a healthy vitamin D level. Too much sunlight damages the skin and may increase the risk of skin cancer. That’s why vitamin D supplements are so popular. Plus, the sun may not be intense enough in the winter if you live in a Northern latitude with less direct sunlight.
Fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines, supply a modest amount of vitamin D per serving. For example, a 100-gram serving of salmon supplies up to 360 IU of vitamin D, with wild-caught salmon containing more than farm-raised. A similar serving size of sardines has around 190 IU. However, most people don’t eat enough fish to meet their vitamin D needs. The minimum you need daily is 600 IU, and most experts believe in getting between 800 IU and 2000 IU each day. So, you’d have to eat a lot of fatty fish to get enough vitamin D in your diet.
Manufacturers add vitamin D to some packaged foods, such as breakfast cereals, yogurt, dairy milk, and plant-based milk, but the form of vitamin D in some of these products is different. The vitamin D form you get from the sun and fatty fish is called vitamin D3—while the type in fortified foods is often D2. One study found that vitamin D3 is 87% more effective at raising vitamin D levels than vitamin D2. So, you’re getting a less efficient form of vitamin D when you consume fortified foods. Also, read the label and make sure the packaged food you’re buying contains vitamin D. Not all do.
Mushrooms Exposed to Ultraviolet Light
Most people don’t think of mushrooms as being a good source of vitamin D, but they can be. If you expose mushrooms to ultraviolet light, they make vitamin D2. The amount of vitamin D mushrooms produce depends upon the type. For example, wild maitake mushrooms supply more vitamin D (as much as 2,300 IU) relative to eating a serving of salmon, which has about 360 IU. Some manufacturers now use ultraviolet light to maximize vitamin D2 production by button mushrooms, the typical kind you find at most grocery stores. Doing this can increase the quantity of vitamin D2 they produce by severalfold, making them almost comparable to the vitamin D content of wild mushrooms.
Vitamin D Supplements
People who have problems getting enough sun exposure often opt for a vitamin D supplement. Supplements come in both the vitamin D3 and the vitamin D2 form. Which should you choose? Unless you’re a vegetarian or vegan, choose vitamin D3—since it’s more efficient at raising your vitamin D level. Vegetarians and vegans choose the vitamin D2 form since it doesn’t come from animals, like vitamin D3.
Before taking a supplement, talk to your physician. They can check a vitamin D blood level and make a recommendation on how much to take. Most healthcare providers recommend taking 600 IU to 2,000 IU daily, although this may be too little if you’re deficient. Don’t take high doses without the guidance of a healthcare provider since too much vitamin D can be toxic.
One of our favorite products combines vitamin D with omega-3 fish oil. SFH Super Omega-3 Fish Oil with Vitamin D has been through rigorous testing and meets the highest standards.
The Bottom Line
Now you have a better idea of how to get vitamin D. It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D through diet alone since most people don’t eat large quantities of fatty fish or mushrooms exposed to ultraviolet light. Plus, the quantity of vitamin D in fortified foods is in a less potent form. If you don’t get much sunlight exposure, taking a vitamin D supplement may be your best option. Research well and purchase one from a reputable maker.