The skin cancer scare has rendered many Americans vitamin D deficient, with many avoiding highly beneficial natural sources of vitamin D. Although caution should be used when exposed to the sun for extended periods of time, unobstructed access to the sunshine vitamin can improve dental health, slash the risk of getting the flu by half, and aid people suffering with everything from asthma to cancer.
In the approaching winter months, however, sunlight plentiful in vitamin D will become scarce. We’ll have to expand our diets by eating lots of foods high in vitamin D (but taking care to avoid mercury-laden fish) and potentially high quality vitamin D3 supplements. According to Harvard, how much vitamin D our bodies need varies with our age and skin color. Natural health experts agree that between 5,000 and 8,000 international units (IUs) daily is most beneficial.
Here are 7 great natural sources of vitamin D:
Three ounces of fresh sockeye salmon has nearly 450 IUs of vitamin D. It’s also loaded with healthy omega-3 fatty acids, a natural anti-aging nutrient and known obesity fighter. Always remember to buy from only high quality organic fish producers and avoid any fish around the Fukushima disaster or the Pacific as a whole.
Two sardines contain 12% of the FDA’s recommended vitamin D daily intake. While the FDA’s recommended intake is very low at only 400 IU a day, sardines can be a great source of vitamin D when adding to additional intake. To avoid BPA leaching into your healthy food through canned food, stick to fresh fish rather than canned varieties.
A large egg yolk has 37 IUs of vitamin D, and they also provide protein and healthy cholesterol. Don’t worry—the theory that eggs are as bad as cigarettes is a myth was recently debunked by a Canadian study. To get the most nutrients (and to be nicer to the planet and its other inhabitants, like chickens), stick to farm-fresh varieties. You’ll know them when you crack them because the yolks are bright orange, not yellow.
Cheese can boost your diet with vitamin D, but as always you will want to eat it in moderation — especially if it is not raw and from a local farm. Get farm-fresh cheese to ensure that the dairy cows are at least eating grass, as they’re meant to, not M&Ms and doughnuts as many now are.
5. Beef liver
Three ounces of this beef liver gets you 42 IUs of vitamin D as well as a healthy dose of iron. Iron is generally useful particularly for women who may be deficient in the substance.
“Mushrooms contain a compound called ergosterol that gets converted to vitamin D when exposed to UVB light,” says Tara McHugh, a researcher at Western Regional Research Center of the Agricultural Research Service.
7. Sunlight (The Absolute Best)
Depending on your skin hue, anywhere from 10 minutes (light skin) to 30 minutes (dark skin) of near-full-body exposure in the summer sun without sunscreen will fulfill your vitamin D intake. Remember that sunshine cannot create vitamin D through glass, and it is always important to build up your skin to the sunlight by going outside in increasingly larger amounts each day.
If you’re concerned about excess sun exposure, you can always wear extra clothing or a large hat. In addition, fix up your diet to include raw fruits and vegetables along with organic dark chocolate. By changing your nutritional intake, you can enhance the ability of your body to fight off sunburn.