You load up on calcium to keep your bones healthy and strong, but did you know that not eating enough vitamin D foods makes it near-impossible to reap all of the mineral’s health-boosting benefits?
It’s true! But that’s not the only reason you should up your intake of vitamin D. Besides keeping brittle bones at bay, the nutrient also fights depression and colds, reduces the risk of certain cancers, diminishes inflammation and even wards off erectile dysfunction, according to a Journal of Sexual Medicine report. Talk about a multitasker.
So how can you ensure you’re getting enough of the vitamin? Your body produces D whenever your skin is directly exposed to sunlight. That’s why it’s often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.” But because prolonged exposure to the sun isn’t safe, it’s smart to add vitamin D foods to your diet. This ensures you’ll hit the daily recommended 600 IUs of vitamin D without getting a painful sunburn.
We’ve found the five best vitamin D foods and ranked them in order of potency (starting from least to most). Next time you visit the supermarket, be sure to grab a few of these healthy picks.
Vitamin D content: 40 IUs per fried egg (7% DV)
If you’re an avid Eat This, Not That! reader, you likely know we’re big fans of whole eggs. The yolk may add some extra calories and fat to your plate, but it also contains a host of fat-blasting and health-boosting nutrients—including vitamin D. In fact, a three-egg omelet serves up 20 percent of the daily D requirement. We suggest adding some veggies to the mix for an added boost of flavor and nutrients.
Vitamin D content: 41 IUs per 4 oz serving (7% DV)
Besides providing nearly 7 percent of your daily recommended allowance of vitamin D, a pork chop is a great source of muscle-building lean protein (28 grams to be exact). Plus, it can add some pizazz to a chicken- and beef-filled weekly dinner lineup. Never prepared the meat before? No problem: check out these pork chop recipes for delicious, healthy and super-simple meals you can make.
Cooked Shiitake Mushrooms
Vitamin D content: 41 IUs per cup (7% DV)
Speaking of veggies, a cup of mushrooms provides 7 percent of the day’s D requirement, making them the best source of vitamin D in the produce aisle. They’re an excellent addition to omelets, stir-frys, salads, and tacos. Check out our Soft Veggie Chicken Tacos recipe to see how we use the vegetable in the Tex-Mex-inspired dish. It only takes 15 minutes to whip up!
Canned White Tuna in Water
Vitamin D content: 68 IUs per 3 ounces White Albacore tuna (11% DV); 40 IUs per 3 ounces Light Skipjack or Yellowfin tuna (7% DV)
A convenient and ready-to-eat way to get in some vitamin D foods is to grab a can of tuna. Go with the white albacore tuna to get a bit more vitamin D out of your tuna salad.
Vitamin D-Fortified Lowfat Yogurt
Vitamin D content: 150 IUs per cup (25% DV)
Some yogurts are fortified with vitamin D. Unfortunately for buyers, many of these fortified tubs are also those that are traditionally higher in sugar and lower in protein than what we’d typically recommend. One option that meets Eat This, Not That! standards is the 32-ounce tub of Stonyfield Organic Plain Low Fat Smooth & Creamy yogurt. Each 8-ounce serving contains 110 calories, 2 grams of fat, 12 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of protein for a whopping quarter of your day’s recommended vitamin D. As you’ll see with our pick below, you should opt for the tub with fat as vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin.
Vitamin D-Fortified 2% Cow’s Milk
Vitamin D content: 120 IUs per cup (20% DV)
Although cow’s milk isn’t naturally rich in vitamin D, in America it’s commonly fortified with the nutrient. To best absorb the D—and the full alphabet of nutrients listed on the carton—opt for 2 percent over skim. It’s well worth the calories, because vitamins A, D, E, and K need fat to be absorbed. One cup provides more than 20 percent of the day’s recommended D intake.
Vitamin D content: 759 IUs per 4-ounce Sockeye filet (127% DV); 596 IUs per 4-ounce farmed Atlantic salmon filet (99% DV)
Coming in at the top of our list is sockeye salmon—and it’s easy to see why. Just one four-ounce serving provides more than a day’s recommended vitamin D intake. Bonus: this fish is brimming with heart-protecting, fat-frying omega-3s and can help ward off breast and prostate cancers by up to 50 percent, according to Harvard and University of California San Diego researchers. To learn more about foods that can protect you from the big C, check out 7 Foods That Fight Cancer.
This article was originally published May 15, 2015, and has since been updated to reflect changes in nutritional information.