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Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that your body needs for many vital processes, including building and maintaining strong bones.
Low vitamin D intake is considered a major public health concern across the globe. In fact, vitamin D deficiency is estimated to affect 13% of the world’s population
Fatty fish and seafood are among the richest natural food sources of vitamin D.
In fact, a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of canned salmon can provide up to 386 IU of vitamin D — about 50% of the RDI.
The exact vitamin D content of seafoods may vary depending on the type and species in question. For example, some research suggests that farmed salmon may contain only 25% of the amount of wild-caught salmon.
Mushrooms are the only vegetarian source of vitamin D.
Like humans, mushrooms can make their own vitamin D upon exposure to UV light. Humans produce a form of vitamin D known as D3 or cholecalciferol, whereas mushrooms produce D2 or ergocalciferol.
Both forms of this vitamin can raise circulating vitamin D levels, though research suggests that D3 may raise levels more effectively and efficiently than D2.
While vitamin D content depends on the type of mushroom, certain varieties — such as wild maitake mushrooms — provide as much as 2,348 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving. That’s almost 300% of the RDI.
Egg yolks are another source of vitamin D that you can easily add to your routine.
Like many other natural food sources, yolks have variable vitamin D content.
Conventionally raised chickens that don’t have access to the outdoors typically only produce eggs harboring 2–5% of the RDI.
However, some research indicates that eggs from pasture-raised or free-range chickens offer up to 4 times more — or up to 20% of the RDI — depending on how much time the fowl spend outside.
Because few foods naturally contain high levels of vitamin D, this nutrient is often added to staple goods in a process known as fortification.
Still, you should keep in mind that the availability of vitamin-D-fortified foods varies by country, and the amount added to foods may differ by brand and type.
If you’re unsure whether a particular food has been fortified with vitamin D, check its ingredients list.
Examples include: cow’s milk, orange juice, certain types of yogurt, plant-based milk alternatives like soy, almond, and hemp milk.
For many people, taking a vitamin D supplement may be the best way to ensure adequate intake.
Vitamin D exists in two main biological forms — D2 (ergocalciferol) and D3 (cholecalciferol). Typically, D2 comes from plants and D3 from animals.
Research suggests that D3 may be significantly more effective at raising and maintaining overall vitamin D levels than D2, so look for a supplement with this form.
Additionally, it’s important to purchase high-quality supplements that have been independently tested. Some countries — such as the United States — don’t regulate nutritional supplements, which can negatively impact supplement quality.
Lamps that emit UV-B radiation may also boost your vitamin D levels, though these lamps can be costly.
When your skin is exposed to UV-B radiation from the sun, it’s able to produce its own vitamin D. UV lamps mimic the action of the sun and can be especially helpful if your sun exposure is limited due to geography or time indoors.
UV radiation has been used therapeutically for various skin conditions for decades, but only recently has it been marketed as a way to improve vitamin D levels.
Safety is an important concern with these devices, as too much exposure could burn your skin. You’re typically recommended to limit your exposure to no more than 15 minutes at a time.
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