Vitamin D is an important nutrient your body requires for many critical processes, including building strong bones and keeping them solid. Low intake of vitamin D is a significant concern for public health across the globe. In addition, vitamin D deficiency affects 13 percent of the world population. Here are 7 ways to increase vitamin D levels.
1. Get Some Sunshine
Vitamin D is sunshine vitamin because the sun is one of the major source of this nutrient. Your skin contains a cholesterol which acts as a precursor of vitamin D. Once the compound exposes to sun UV-B rays, it becomes vitamin D.
Sun-derived vitamin D can, in fact, circulate twice as long as vitamin D comes from food or supplements. The amount of vitamin D which your body can produce, however, depends on many variables (1).
- Skin type and Age
People with darker skin will spend more time in the sun developing vitamin D than people with lighter skin. That’s because more melanin is found in darker skin, a compound that can inhibit vitamin D development. Aging may also have an effect. As you get older, your skin is less effective in producing vitamin D (2, 3).
- Geographical location
The closer you live to the equator, the more vitamin D you will get because of your physical closeness to the rays of the sun. In comparison, the chances of sufficient sun exposure decrease proportionally the farther from the equator you live (4).
- Sunscreen and clothing
Some types of clothing and sunscreen can block the development of vitamin D. While protecting yourself from skin cancer by preventing overexposure to sunlight is important. However, vitamin D needs very little sun exposure for your body (5).
While there is no formal guideline, reports say that as little as 8–15 minutes of exposure is enough for lighter-skinned individuals to make enough vitamin D. People with darker skin can require longer periods (6).
When exposed to UV-B rays of the sun, the skin will produce significant quantities of vitamin D by itself. And several factors influence this mechanism.
2. Consume Egg Yolks
Another source of vitamin D is egg yolks, which you can easily add to your diet. As many other natural sources of food, yolks have the variable content of vitamin D. Conventionally raised chickens that have no exposure to the outdoors usually produce only eggs that harbor 2–5 percent of the RDI (7).
Some study, however, shows that eggs from pasture-raised or free-range chickens provide four times more vitamin D that is 20 percent of the RDI. However, this depends on how much time the chicken spends outdoors. Chicken feed can also influence the amount of vitamin D in eggs. Grain fed chicken can produce yolks that possess over 100 percent of RDI (8, 9).
Pastured eggs are a substantial source of vitamin D, because chickens with exposure to sunlight contain more vitamin D in their eggs than those left indoors.
3. Consume Fatty Fish
Fatty fish is amongst the best vitamin D food sources. Yes, a canned salmon serving of 3.5 ounces (100 grams) will provide up to 386 IU of vitamin D that is about 50 percent of RDI (10).
The exact content of vitamin D in seafood will differ depending on the form and species. For instance, some research shows that farmed salmon that contain only 25 percent compare to a wild-caught salmon (11).
Other forms of seafood rich in vitamin D are such as tuna, mackerel, shrimp, oysters, sardines, and anchovies.
Most of these seafoods are also high in omega-3 fatty acids (12).
Fatty fish and seafood are among the highest vitamin D foods, although the exact content of vitamin D can vary from one species to another.
4. Consume Fortified Foods
Since few foods naturally contain top levels of vitamin D, they add this nutrient to the staple foods in a process known as fortification. You should remember that the availability of VD in fortified food varies by region, and the amount added to the food can vary by brand and form.
Some foods which are commonly fortified such as cow milk, soy milk, almond milk, hemp milk, fruit juice powder, cereals, yogurt, and tofu. If you’re unsure whether a particular food has been fortified with vitamin D, search the list of ingredients.
To increase the intake of VD, they add it to staples foods such as milk and breakfast cereals.
5. Eat Mushrooms
Mushrooms are the only source of vitamin D, entirely based on plants. Like humans, upon exposure to UV light, mushrooms can produce their own vitamin D. People produce a vitamin D called D3 or cholecalciferol, while mushrooms make D2 or ergocalciferol (13).
All forms of this vitamin may increase circulating levels of vitamin D, but evidence shows that D3 can spike levels more rapidly than D2 (14).
Although the amount of vitamin D depends on the mushroom, certain types such as wild maitake mushrooms can provide as much as 2,348 IU per serving of 3.5 ounces (100-gram). That is nearly 300 percent of RDI (15, 16).
Wild mushrooms typically have more vitamin D than commercially grown varieties, because of their exposure to sunlight. Yet you can also buy UV-treated mushrooms.
Nevertheless, you should purchase wild mushrooms from a reputable supplier such as a grocery store or farmers’ market to avoid poisonous varieties.
Mushrooms contain vitamin D. Wild mushrooms–or commercially cultivated UV light-treated ones–have the highest levels of vitamin D.
6. Take VD Supplement
Taking a vitamin D supplement could be the best way for many people to ensure a sufficient intake. There are two primary biological sources of vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Usually D2 originates from plants and D3 comes from animals (17).
Research shows that D3 may be significantly more successful in increasing and sustaining overall levels of vitamin D than D2. Buying high-quality supplements which have been independently tested is important (18).
You need to take supplements if you are not getting adequate vitamin D from food or sunlight. The best way to take supplements is to have your vitamin D levels checked before supplementation.
7. Try a UV Lamp
Lamps which emit UV-B radiation can also boost your levels of vitamin D. However, these lamps are very expensive. When the sun exposes the skin to UV-B radiation, it will create its own vitamin D. UV lamps replicate the sun’s behavior and can be especially beneficial if you don’t have access to the sun.
For decades, UV radiation has been used therapeutically for various skin disorders but has only recently been marketed to improve vitamin D levels. Safety of these devices is a major concern, as too much exposure could burn your skin. Usually it’s recommended that you restrict your exposure to only 15 minutes at a time (19).
To stimulate the development of vitamin D, you can buy lamps which emit UV-B radiation. But if used for over 15 minutes at a time, they can be risky.
How Does VD work?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that mainly helps the bones absorb calcium, promoting growth and mineralization. It also includes the immune, digestive, circulatory, and nervous systems with various functions (20).
Emerging evidence shows that vitamin D can help prevent several diseases, including depression, diabetes, cancer and heart disease. However, the relationship between vitamin D and those conditions not crystal clear (21).
How Much VD Do You Need?
Inside the scientific community, there’s considerable controversy over how much vitamin D the body requires. The National Academy of Medicine believes that 600–800 IU per day of vitamin D is adequate for most of the population. The Endocrine Society recommends 1,500–2,000 IU a day (22, 23).
The Reference Daily Intake (RDI) for adults based on the US is 600-800 IU of vitamin D. The optimal blood vitamin D level is not concretely determined, but is likely to fall between 20 and 50 ng / ml (24, 25, 26).
Vitamin D supplements differ in dosage. That said, the amount that you need depends on your present levels of vitamin D. The 1,000–4,000 IU is considered sufficient daily dose for most people to maintain good levels (27).
However, you might need a much larger dose and particularly if your current levels are very low or you have minimal sunshine exposure (28).
For this reason, it is best for your medical provider to have your vitamin D levels checked to ensure you are taking the most acceptable dosage.
Remember, high blood levels of vitamin D can cause toxicity, also known as hypervitaminosis D. Therefore, it is important to check your blood levels.
Vitamin D Supplement for Vegan
The supplement manufacturers derive most of the vitamin D from animal sources. Therefore, unsuitable for vegans. There are also a few choices for vegan. D2 supplements are plant-derived, usually vegan-friendly and readily available.
The Bottom Line
That said, by having more exposure to the sun, consuming foods rich in vitamin D and/or taking supplements, you can improve your vitamin D levels. If you think you are low in this vital nutrient, consult a healthcare professional to test your VD levels.
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