05/16/2014 08:18 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?

By Sarah-Jane Bedwell, R.D., SELF


Photo credit: Romulo Yanes

No matter how old you are or where you live, there's a good chance that you could be deficient in vitamin D. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that an estimated 1 billion people worldwide have inadequate amounts of vitamin D in their blood.

You probably know that vitamin D plays a role in keep your bones healthy, but did you know that getting enough vitamin D (along with calcium) is associated with maintaining a healthy weight as well? In fact, a study found that calcium and vitamin D may lead to a beneficial reduction in belly fat in overweight adults.

Plus, being deficient in vitamin D may increase your risk for diseases such as osteoporosis, heart disease, even some cancers and the flu. So how much vitamin D do you need to eat each day? The National Health Institute now recommends that people between the ages of one and 70 consume 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D each day with an upper limit of 4,000 IUs per day. However, many doctors and dietitians believe people need even more than 600 IUs a day for optimal health.

To get plenty of vitamin D in your diet, it takes a little planning since very few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Fortified products like dairy foods and breakfast cereals can help you meet your vitamin D needs. Here are some foods with the highest content of vitamin D:

-- 3 ounces of cooked Sockeye Salmon contains 447 IUs
-- 84 grams (about 1/3 cup of mushrooms) provide between 3 (naturally occurring) and 493 IUs (mushrooms grown with exposure to UV light) depending on variety and how they are prepared
-- 3 ounces of tuna canned in water has 154 IUs
-- 1 cup orange juice fortified with vitamin D provides 137 IUs
-- 1 cup nonfat milk fortified with vitamin D has 115 IUs
-- 6 ounces low-fat yogurt fortified with vitamin D contains 80 IUs
-- 2 sardines canned in oil provides 46 IUs
-- 1 large egg (vitamin D is found in the yolk) has 41 IUs
-- 1 cup cereal fortified with vitamin D provides 40 IUs
-- 1 ounce swiss cheese supplies 6 IUs

So a vitamin D packed day might look like this:

Breakfast: 1 cup cereal fortified with vitamin D with 1/2 cup nonfat milk fortified with vitamin D and 1 cup strawberries with 1/2 cup orange juice fortified with vitamin D and 1 cup black coffee.
Lunch: Tuna melt made with 3 ounces tuna canned in water (drained), 1 ounce swiss cheese, two slices 100-percent whole wheat bread topped with lettuce and tomato served with 6 ounces lowfat yogurt fortified with vitamin D and 1 apple.
Snack: One hard-boiled egg and 1 cup carrot sticks.
Dinner: 3 ounces cooked sockeye salmon, 1/2 cup brown rice and 1 cup broccoli florets.
Treat: Hot chocolate made with 1 cup nonfat milk fortified with vitamin D.

Vitamin D total for the day: 1,077.5 units

If you think you might be low in vitamin D, try making an appointment with your doc to see if a blood test or supplement is the right way to go!

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