Vitamin D, also called the "sunshine vitamin," is an essential nutrient for healthy bone structure and to maintain the body's levels of phosphate and calcium. The body's vitamin D needs can be met through exposure to sunlight and a balanced diet. However, inadequate sunlight exposure due to factors such as smog, sunscreen and seasonal changes brings up the need to supplement your vitamin D levels. This may also be necessary for medical reasons among individuals over the age of 65 to maintain optimal bone health. The following guidelines address how to consume more vitamin D through wise diet choices.
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Add fatty fish to your diet. Studies have proven that fatty fish is the most abundant food source of vitamin D. Vitamin D, a fat-soluble compound, is stored and accumulated in the fish's body tissues. Some of the fatty fish include herring -- 1383 IU per 85.1 g (3 oz), wild salmon -- 988 IU per 99.2 g (3.5 oz), cat fish -- 425 IU per 85.1 g (3 oz), halibut -- 510 IU per 85.1 g (3 oz), cooked mackerel -- 345 IU per 85.1 g (3 oz) and farmed salmon -- 245 IU per 99.2 g (3.5 oz).
Take a daily dose of fish oil, such as cod liver oil, which is a natural food supplement. Cod liver oil provides more than 1350 IU per 15 ml (0.5 oz) of oil, and is the only other food source of Vitamin D that rivals the content per serving of fatty fish such as herring.
Stock up on non-fish seafood sources of this essential vitamin, such as shrimp -- 129 IU per 85.1 g (3 oz), oysters -- 272 IU per 85.1 g (3 oz) and cooked eel -- 200 IU per 99.2 g (3.5 oz).
Incorporate other natural animal food sources into your meals, such as beef liver -- 30 IU per 99.2 g (3.5 oz) serving and eggs (up to 25 IU per yolk).
Use mushrooms to increase your vitamin D intake. Every four shitake mushrooms, for example, provide 249 IU of vitamin D. Mushrooms provide vegans with their one and only natural food source of vitamin D.
Shop for food brands that are fortified with vitamin D, which can be rich sources of vitamin D. This is especially important if you are allergic to seafood. Fortified cow's milk, soymilk, rice milk and orange juice provide 100 IU of vitamin D per 227 ml (8 oz) glass. Yoghurt, tofu, Swiss cheese, breakfast cereals, margarine and breads are other foods that are often fortified with vitamin D.
Cook with vitamin D-rich foods and products. Using fortified products such as fortified milk as an ingredient in your recipes, such as sauces, baked goods and puddings will help increase your intake of vitamin D. Unlike many other vitamins, vitamin D is relatively stable and will not be destroyed by cooking.