The Deal with Vitamin D

Our resident healthy eating expert spills the tea on vitamin D

Ivey preparing the brussels sprouts. Photo by Kent Anderson
Ivey preparing the brussels sprouts. Photography by Kent Anderson

Vitamin D is a vital nutrient needed to maintain strong bones. It also supports muscle, immune, and lung function as well as the metabolism and brain, blood, and gut health. Without adequate vitamin D, the body can’t absorb the calcium it ingests—leading to weakened bone health and osteoporosis—and the immune system can’t effectively fight off bacteria and viruses. 

Despite vitamin D’s important role in physiological health, 50 percent of the global population and 35 percent of the American population are deficient. Two factors that might be contributing to this are the more indoor lifestyle that modern humans live compared with our ancestors, plus the scarcity of vitamin D in our food. Infants up to 1 year old need 400 IU (international units) per day, while people ages 1 to 70 need 600 and those older than 70 need 800. Thankfully, there are numerous ways to offset a deficit, including spending time outdoors, increasing your intake of vitamin D–rich foods, and incorporating supplements into your daily routine.    

Vitamin D is also referred to as the sunshine vitamin, and your body actually creates it by converting cholesterol in your skin when exposed to sunlight. An easy way to up your intake is to get moderate sun exposure every day. Pencil in 10 to 20 minutes a day of sun time—sunscreen free—to help increase your vitamin D levels naturally, without burning your skin.

Read on for more ways to add vitamin D to your diet. 

Salmon is rich in vitamin D. Photo by Kent Anderson
Salmon is rich in vitamin D.

Foods Containing Vitamin D

Mushrooms, especially shiitake and button: 150 IU per cup 

Salmon: 400 IU in 3.5 oz. (up to 900 IU if wild)

Tuna: 300 IU in 3.5 oz.

Sardines: 250 IU in 3 oz.

Cod liver oil: 450 IU per tsp.

Oysters: 320 IU in 3.5 oz.

Shrimp: 150 IU in 4 oz.

Eggs: 25 IU in 1 egg

Sulfuric foods: Cruciferous vegetables rich in sulfur help your body synthesize vitamin D. Think: brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, onions, shallots, garlic, beans, and oats.

Fun fact: Vitamin D is boosted if you give your mushrooms a sunbath. Studies have shown IU levels can increase from 150 to 2,300 if exposed to sunlight. Talk about magic mushrooms!

Supplement Guidelines

D3 + K2: Be sure you supplement with a combination of D3 and K2. The vitamin K ensures that calcium is absorbed where it needs to be, i.e. bones and muscle tissue.

Magnesium: Magnesium in your diet as well as a magnesium citrate supplement helps your body convert vitamin D into its active form.

Seared Wild Salmon over Crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts. Photo by Kent Anderson; Props courtesy of Hive Home, Gift & Garden. Clothing courtesy of Hive for Her
Props courtesy of Hive Home, Gift & Garden. Clothing courtesy of Hive for Her

Seared Wild Salmon over Crispy Roasted Brussels Sprouts 

Ingredients (Serves 2)

4 cups brussels sprouts, halved

2 tbsp. olive oil, divided 

1 garlic clove, freshly grated

2 6-oz. wild salmon fillets, skin on

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Pinch of sea salt

Fresh cracked pepper, to taste  

Parsley for garnish


» Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss halved brussels sprouts in 1 tbsp. olive oil and the grated garlic. Using a parchment-lined baking sheet, place brussels sprouts cut-side down (this ensures crispiness). Bake for 25 minutes until brown and crispy.

» While brussels sprouts are roasting, coat a cast-iron skillet with 1 tbsp. olive oil. Pat dry salmon fillets and salt generously. Over medium-high heat, place salmon fillets flesh-side down and cook for 6-8 minutes. Flip fillets and transfer to oven (with sprouts) and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

» Remove brussels sprouts from oven and squeeze with juice of half a lemon and sprinkle with sea salt. Remove skin from salmon fillets. Arrange brussels sprouts on a plate and top with salmon fillet. Finish with fresh cracked pepper and garnish with parsley. 

Spinach & Mushroom Frittata. Photo by Kent Anderson

Spinach & Mushroom Frittata 

Ingredients (Serves 6)

8-10 eggs

1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk

2 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. olive oil

2 cups shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 shallot, sliced

2 cups fresh spinach 


» Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Whisk together the eggs, almond milk, garlic, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Using a cast-iron skillet, add olive oil, mushrooms, and shallot and cook over medium heat for 6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add spinach and cook for 1 minute until wilted. Pour in egg mixture. Transfer to oven and cook for 15 minutes.

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