I live in Minnesota where the winters get pretty cold and gloomy. My doctor told me my vitamin D was low due to lack of sun in the wintertime. I have to take a large dose of Vitamin D every winter. Are there any foods that I could be eating to increase my vitamin D intake?

Vitamin D is both a hormone that our bodies make and a nutrient that we consume. It has been estimated that around one billion people in the world have inadequate levels of vitamin D (N Engl J Med 2007). There are various reasons that people have low vitamin D levels and they include: lack of sun exposure, race, overweight, and age. Being deficient in vitamin D may increase risk of some cancers, cause heart disease, osteoporosis and multiple sclerosis. There is some debate about how much vitamin D we need each day. Researchers currently suggest that children and adults have a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of ~600 IU of vitamin D a day.

There are two forms of vitamin D: ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). Vitamin D2 is synthesized by plants and vitamin D3 is synthesized by our skin when exposed to ultraviolet light. Foods can be fortified with either vitamin D2 or D3. There are many dietary sources that contain vitamin D. Examples include: cod liver oil, mackerel, salmon, tuna, milk and fortified foods such as cereal and soy milk. You could include a fortified cereal topped with milk for breakfast, enjoy a great tuna salad sandwich for lunch and serve a fantastic grilled salmon for dinner. Despite these foods being high in vitamin D, many health experts agree that people will not be able to meet their RDA with food alone, and that supplementation may be necessary.

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