Healthy Body

Vitamin D Is Hard to Get From Food Alone—Here Are 5 Ways to Supplement It, According to an RD

Allie Flinn

Photo: Getty Images/Westend61
I was this many days old when I discovered that pretty much everyone should be figuring out how to get more vitamin D in their lives since it's one nutrient most people don't get enough of. "Put it this way, it’s more common for people to be deficient in vitamin D than to have sufficient levels of it," says Tracy Lockwood Beckerman, RD. This is in part because folks now have more allergies and dietary restrictions than ever, which keeps them from eating foods high in the nutrient, she says.

But Beckerman also points to common malabsorptive syndromes, like celiac and IBS, which can prevents the body from properly processing vitamins. Now, factor in that it's naturally present in very few foods, and it's no wonder many of us aren't getting enough. But it's important, because it plays a role in everything from reproductive health to mental health to bone health, and even the strength of your immune system. "It’s essential that we are equipped with an adequate in order for all these systems to be running efficiently and effectively in place," Beckerman says. Additionally, deficiency can cause things like headaches, poor mood, and fatigue.

And even though few foods are a good sources of vitamin D, Beckerman says that it's not impossible to figure out how to get more of it from your diet. "You have to be somewhat strategic in your food choices to make sure you are getting adequate [amounts] for breakfast, lunch, and dinner," she says. "Do an analysis one day to see how much you are getting, and then take it from there!"

5 ways to get more vitamin D into your system

1. Go outside

It's nicknamed the sunshine vitamin for a reason. "According to research, approximately 20 minutes of sunshine daily with over 40 percent of skin exposed is required to prevent deficiency," Beckerman says. (Yes, still wear sunscreen.)

2. Choose the right milk (or mylk)

"Read the labels of your choice of milk, make sure it’s fortified with vitamin D," advises Beckerman.

3. Eat the "fatty" parts

"Because vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin stored in fat tissues in the body, it is found in the 'fatty' parts of fish, milk, and eggs," Beckerman explains. "But don't let that deter you from eating it because those parts are usually packed with mega nutrients like vitamin A, D, E, and K." Salmon, trout, and tuna are all Beckerman-approved fatty fish, as is taking a fish liver oil supplement ("if you can stomach it," she says). "Don’t stray away from egg yolks, that’s where it's hiding!" she adds. Read: It's a great time to try one of these easy sheet pan egg recipes.

4. Munch on more mushrooms

"Add mushrooms to your diet for some vegan-friendly and plant-based vitamin D," says Beckerman. "Though inherently they contain vitamin D, they could be treated with a UV light. This increases the exposure to vitamin D, thus upping its levels in the mushroom." If you are team "mushrooms are gross," try chopping them up really small and using them as a meat extender. I pulled this on my mushroom-hating boyfriend the other day and he had no clue.

5. Take a supplement

Beckerman recommends supplements that are "free of fillers and additives—the less ingredients the better—easy to find, and most importantly, that you'll remember to take every day. She suggests Natalist Vitamin D3 Gummies ($19) because they're free of high fructose corn syrup, yeast, and dairy—plus, "one gummy delivers all the readily absorbable, bioavailable cholecalciferol vitamin D you need in one day." Another gummy she recommends is Yumi Biteamin ($33), because they are a "whole food, plant-based source of vitamin D derived from shiitake and maitake mushrooms," she says.

If you're not into gummies, Beckerman recommends Nature's Made Softgel Vitamin D3 ($15) because it's made with the body's preferred form of vitamin D. Additionally, "it is USP certified, meaning a third party verifies their claims and ingredients," she explains. Another non-gummy supplement she recommends is Solgar Vitamin D3 ($13). "It's easy to swallow and it's free from sugar, wheat, and artificial anything," she says. 

Also to note: Vitamin D and calcium work better together, Beckerman says. She advises taking both supplements at the same time. "Without enough vitamin D, it's nearly impossible to soak up all the calcium your body needs," she says.

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