By now we’re used to the seemingly endless, cold, dark days of Canadian winters and with recent weather factors in the mix — it feels like we are inside now more than ever, which can impact our intake of a crucial nutrient: vitamin D.
What is vitamin D, and why do we need it?
Vitamin D is the only nutrient your body produces when exposed to sunlight, so a lack of sunlight can contribute to vitamin D deficiency and, subsequently, may lead to various problems like irregular sleep cycles, low energy and depression. Oftentimes called the “sunshine vitamin” because it is easily absorbed through UVB radiation, vitamin D can help combat seasonal affective disorder (SAD), boost immune system function and increase concentration.
If all this leaves you asking “but how do I increase my vitamin D levels?,” this fat-soluble vitamin can be found in many of your favourite foods for endless meal options and combinations. Below, we’ll explore some delicious sources of vitamin D to consider — especially if you find yourself spending more and more time indoors.
Vitamin D rich food: oily fish
There are actually two main forms of vitamin D — vitamin D3, which is animal-based, and D2, which is plant-based. Fatty fish such as wild-caught salmon, tuna, sardines and mackerel are a great source of vitamin D3, as well as omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, one serving of fatty fish can get you close to hitting your daily requirement.
For an inexpensive, easy and delicious meal option, try topping toast with canned or smoked fish, adding seasonal vegetables and herbs for full flavour.
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Vitamin D rich food: cod liver oil
If you’re not a seafood lover, consider taking cod liver oil for your daily dose of vitamin D. Cod liver oil’s high vitamin D content is what distinguishes it from other fish oils. It’s also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help discourage blood clot formation and reduce inflammation in the body. While it might not sound appetizing, it’s easily palatable when taken in capsule form or when flavoured.
Vitamin D rich food: egg yolks
An easy way to start your day with a healthy dose of vitamin D is to incorporate eggs into your breakfast. While most of the protein in an egg is found in the white, the fats, vitamins and minerals are in its yolk. One typical egg yolk contains multiple vitamins and essential minerals, including five percent of your daily recommended value of vitamin D. Choosing eggs from either pasture-raised chickens or marketed as high in vitamin D can boost levels three-to-four times higher, giving a whole new meaning to sunny side up.
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Vitamin D rich food: butter
Now that you’ve settled on eggs for breakfast, consider boosting taste and nutrients by adding butter. Butter contains vitamin D, as well as calcium — nutrients which are both vital for bone growth and development. Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium, so choose recipes with ingredients that combine the two, such as scrambled eggs.
Vitamin D rich food: mushrooms
Mushrooms are an excellent non-animal, non-dairy source of vitamin D, thanks to their ability to synthesize the vitamin when exposed to UV light. Whereas animals produce vitamin D3, mushrooms produce vitamin D2, which can be used to treat calcium disorders and parathyroid disorders. Be sure to choose wild mushrooms, as commercially grown mushrooms are often grown in the dark and contain very little D2.
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Vitamin D rich food: sunflower sprouts
Sunflower sprouts, or microgreens, are packed with vitamin D, as well vitamins A, B complex, E and K. Their nutty flavour and crunchy texture make them an excellent add on in soups, salads and sandwiches.
Vitamin D rich food: fortified orange juice
For those who are vegetarian, vegan or lactose intolerant, vitamin D-fortified products like orange juice are an easy, affordable non-dairy source of vitamin D. Orange juice can also be fortified with calcium.
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Vitamin D rich food: spinach
If you’re a leafy green veggie-lover, then spinach is one of your best options containing vitamins D and calcium. Spinach is an excellent source of quick energy and a delicious add-on to many meals and sauces.
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Vitamin D rich food: oysters
Raw oysters are a high protein food that contain vitamin D, B12, phosphorus, copper, zinc and omega-3s. While they aren’t your everyday fare, oysters make a great party or special occasion treat. They’re also rumoured to boost desire, making them perfect for a night in or date night appetizer.
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Vitamin D rich food: cheese
Cheese is among the most delicious foods containing vitamin D, in our opinion. Different types of cheeses contain varying amounts of vitamin D (American cheese contains more vitamin D than feta per serving, for example). Everything tastes better with cheese, and it can be added to so many of your favourite winter comfort meals.