In Part 1, we explained why the sun is the best source. But we also revealed problems you might have in getting enough sunshine to enable your body to make vitamin D: You may live the northern half of the United States, you may be over the age of 50 (when your body makes less vitamin D), or your dark skin may require more time in the sun than your busy schedule allows.
The next option, then, is to complement what sun you do get with foods rich in vitamin D.
Vitamin D food sources
The first thought that may come to your mind is fish. And you’d be right – but it’s not just any old fish that will do. The best is wild sockeye salmon. It will provide you with about 1000IUs per 3.5 ounces; farmed salmon will give you about ¼ of that.
Canned tuna is relatively rich in vitamin D, too. It offers about 200IUs. Sardines have less, but remain a viable source.
Eggs. A-h-h, eggs. They provide as much as 40IUs each, if the eggs come from free-range hens. You’ll only need to eat about 100 eggs per day. Now, we like free range eggs a lot, but 100? In one day? Cluck!
So you might be thinking, “What of all those fortified-with-vitamin-D foods on the market – like milk and cereals?”
The problem is that very few food manufacturers fortify with the proper form of vitamin D, which is the D3 form. Instead, they fortify with an inferior form of vitamin D called D2.
Your body’s cells do not take all that well to D2, failing to absorb or process it nearly as well as D3. D3 is the form your body makes when you spend a little time in the sun, so that’s what you want from your food. Your chances of getting D3 from fortified, manufactured foods is minimal, so beware.
That leaves mainly fish if you want to get the highest levels of vitamin D from food sources. However, you should be wary of ingesting too much fish because, depending on where it’s caught, it may be polluted with mercury. The FDA recommends, therefore, you eat no more than 12 ounces of salmon or tuna a week. Sigh!
What more can you do? In the next blog, we’ll see if supplements are a good bet.
Meanwhile, go read a book in the sun while munching on a 3.5oz chunk of wild sockeye salmon. But just read a chapter, so you don’t stay out in the sun too long and get sunburned.
Gloria Askew, RRN, has served as department head at numerous emergency wards and as a chief administrator of a major Canadian hospital. Jerre Paquette, Ph.D, is a professor of English and Film Studies at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta.