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March 26, 2014

How to Get Vitamin D When the Sun Isn’t Shining

Vitamin D is one of your body’s best defenses against weakening bones and poor health, particularly as you age. According to a 2013 study in the Annals of Internal Medicine, nearly half of all women over the age of 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture during their lifetime. In addition to weaker bones, a lack of vitamin D has also been associated with cognitive impairment, cancer, and a greater risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Increased vitamin D intake can prevent these problems and also guard against common colds, flu, and infections by boosting immunity. The USDA recommends an intake of at least 600 international units (IUs) of vitamin D each day and at least 800 if you’re 70 or older. The body naturally makes vitamin D when skin is exposed to sunlight, but how do you get your daily dose of vitamin D when the sun isn’t shining, for example, during cold winter and rainy spring months?

You can get off to a great start just by having a healthy breakfast! Here are a few foods you can eat to help ensure you’re getting your daily dose of vitamin D naturally: 

  • Cereal: Many cereals are fortified with vitamin D and other minerals. Brands with high vitamin D content include Multi Grain Cheerios, Quaker Instant Oatmeal and Kellogg’s All-Bran, according to nutrition data. Check the label or company website to find out if your favorite brand is a good source.
  • Milk and Yogurt: Milk and yogurt are great sources of vitamin D, though not all yogurts are equally beneficial. Those with the highest percent of the recommended daily allowance include Breyer’s Crème Savers, Breyer’s Light, Dannon Light & Fit, and a variety of Stonyfield and Yoplait brands. Check the labels, and buy yogurt that contains at least 10 percent of the recommended daily allowance. (For a more complete list, see the U.S. News & World Report article.)
  • Orange Juice: If you’re lactose intolerant, vegan, or simply don’t like dairy products, you can still start your day with a healthy dose of vitamin D. Look for fortified orange juice, which typically contains about 100 units per serving. Brands with vitamin D include Florida Natural Orange Juice and Minute Maid Kids+.
  • Eggs: Eggs are an especially good source of vitamin D, but only if you eat them with the yolk. If you prefer egg whites, add some spinach and wild or portabella mushrooms to your omelet.
  • Fish: Fish isn’t your typical breakfast fare, but it is one of the best foods you can eat to boost vitamin D intake. Certain types of oil-rich fish, including tuna, salmon, and sardines, contain high levels of vitamin D. One 3-ounce sockeye salmon fillet contains about 450 IUs of vitamin D, a good portion of the recommended daily allowance.

Studies show the best way to get vitamin D is to consume and absorb it naturally, but if you struggle with a chronic deficiency, your doctor may recommend light therapy or supplements. Not all supplements are effective—and some can even be harmful—so it’s important to consult your doctor before taking anything. 

Remember, your nutrition needs change as you age, and you may need to adjust your diet to find the right balance for your body. To find out more about your changing dietary needs, download our free guide, “Feed Your Body Right: Nutritional Needs After 50.”



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