A Critical Shortage of Vitamin D Foods

vitamin D foods
In lists of foods to eat to increase your intake of Vitamin D (a very important vitamin for bones as well as other health problems) there are 8 foods that consistently make the cut:

1. Salmon
2. Canned tuna
3. Sardines
4. Eggs
5. Fortified Orange juice
6. Fortified Milk
7. Fortified Yogurt and
8. Fortified Cereal

Four of those – orange juice, milk, yogurt and cereal – are not naturally good sources of vitamin D but rather fortified with vitamin D for additional nutrition (as well as a bonus marketing claim). Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in the American diet. Almost all of the U.S. milk supply is voluntarily fortified with 100 IU/cup. And ready-to-eat breakfast cereals often contain added vitamin D, as do some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine and other food products.

In reality, there are very few foods with enough vitamin D to help you meet your daily needs. More than two thirds of people in North America have low vitamin D levels and four out of five people who have orthopedic problems are low in vitamin D. So, there’s a need for supplemental vitamin D in one form or another for the large majority of the population of the United States and especially those with decreasing bone health.

The goal range for optimal vitamin D intake, recommended by health organizations like the NIH, has increased over the years. And most physicians recommend greater intake of vitamin D, too. The Endocrine Society, a leader in bone health, recommends 1500 IU a day from foods and supplements.

That has made it almost impossible to get enough vitamin D from just foods. While healthy eating in an important part of any bone-building program, a supplement is needed. Healthy eating plus a supplement of approximately 1,000 IU per day should be enough vitamin D for most people and that includes American women over 40 who are at increased risk of osteoporosis.

Remember that supplements are not substitutes for healthy foods or they would be called “substitutes” instead of “supplements.”

Let’s take a closer look at some of the vitamin D-rich foods to see if it is possible to get to 1500 IU in a days eating.

• Single serving Swordfish (4 oz) - 800 IU
• Single serving wild salmon (4 oz) – 600 IU
• Single serving farm-raised salmon (4 oz) -150 IU
• Canned tuna in water (4 oz) - 200 IU
• Fortified Orange Juice (1 cup) - 135 IU
• Fortified milk (1 cup) - 120 IU
• Fortified yogurt (6 oz) - 80 IU
• Canned sardines (2 sardines) - 46 IU
• 1 egg including yolk - 41 IU

What you might notice from this list of foods is that vitamin D isn’t very plentiful in most foods except swordfish, wild salmon and canned tuna. Otherwise supplements are needed to make up for deficiencies, so it’s a good idea to take a vitamin D supplement in addition to healthy eating for most people.

There is one other thing we might start adding to the list of vitamin D foods we should be eating: mushrooms.

Mushrooms have been considered low in vitamin D (a typical serving has just 12 IU). However, mushrooms that are exposed to ultraviolet light develop high vitamin D content. Only five minutes of exposure is needed for one Portabella mushroom to develop as much as 400 IU of vitamin D. Some stores are beginning to sell UV Mushrooms and that’s good news for those who don’t consume enough dietary vitamin D and may not be big on fish.

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