Foods High in Vitamin D

photo of woman in sun

Why You Need Vitamin D

It’s important for your bones, blood cells, and immune system — your body’s defense against germs. You get most of your vitamin D from sunlight on your skin. Just a few minutes a day on your hands and face should do the trick. But you can also get it from food. If you’re homebound, sick, or older, you might not get enough vitamin D. Talk to your doctor if you think your levels are low. 

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How Much Do You Need?

Most adults need about 15 micrograms (mcg) a day. This goes down to 10 mcg in infants and up to 20 mcg in adults 71 or older. On labels, you may see vitamin D amounts listed in international units (IU). A single microgram is equal to 40 international units.

photo of man drinking orange juice

Orange Juice

In this case, it’s better to buy it at the store than to squeeze it yourself. That’s because the vitamin D comes not from the oranges themselves, but from the makers who add it to the juice at the factory. Look for the words “fortified with vitamin D” on the label. You get about 2.5 mcg for each cup.

Enjoy a glass of orange juice, but don’t overdo it. Besides nutrients, it’s also packed with sugar and calories.

photo of rainbow trout

Rainbow Trout

If you’re looking for a healthy main course that comes with a decent amount of vitamin D, try grilling some rainbow trout. It has 16 mcg in a 3-ounce serving. Add a little butter with some lemon and herbs for a tasty meal.

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Salmon

A 3-ounce serving of salmon can give you 10 to 18 mcg of vitamin D, depending on the type. Wild coho is at the low end with 10 mcg, and canned sockeye salmon is at the top with 18. Other fatty fish like mackerel, herring, and sardines also have a pretty good vitamin D kick.

For an easy-to-prepare meal, try baked fish cakes with salmon from the can.

photo of grilled portabella

Portabella Mushrooms

You can get 8 mcg of vitamin D when you eat 3 ounces of portabella mushrooms. But you might bring them outside to see the sun for a few seconds. That’s because UV light from the sun raises the level of vitamin D in many mushrooms, and particularly in portabellas.

For an alternative to a meat dish, brush portabella mushrooms with olive oil and cook them out on the grill.

photo of woman reading yogurt label

Yogurt

Yogurt makers often add vitamin D to their product. You can typically get 3 mcg in an 8-ounce serving. Choose plain, low-fat yogurt to cut down on sugar, fat, and calories.

For a healthy snack, cover fresh berries with some plain, low-fat yogurt and crushed nuts.

photo of canned tuna

Tuna

The humble light tuna in a can packs a fair punch of vitamin D, compared to other foods. You get 6 mcg in a 3-ounce serving.

When you make a sandwich, instead of mayo, try a mixture of Dijon mustard, olive oil, and lemon juice to keep it on the healthier side.

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Milk

Whether your milk is whole, chocolate, or low-fat, the producer likely fortified it with about 3 mcg of vitamin D per cup. So if you have a choice, which kind you should probably go for? (Hint: It’s not the chocolate.)

Yup, low-fat is the way to go. Try some in the morning with whole-grain, low-sugar cereal, also often fortified with vitamin D.

photo of man drinking milk

Nondairy Milks

Whether made from soy, almonds, or rice, makers typically fortify these products with 2.5 to 3 mcg of vitamin D per cup. These drinks also sometimes have plenty of fat, sugar, and calories, so check the label carefully.

Add some nondairy creaminess to your post-workout smoothie with a cup of almond milk. 

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Risk Factors for Low Vitamin D

Several things raise your chances of having low levels of vitamin D:

  • Age: Your skin and kidneys don’t make it as easily in your older years.  
  • Darker skin: It doesn’t convert sunlight as well.
  • Digestive problems: Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and problems with fat digestion can limit your levels.
  • Obesity: Fat traps some vitamin D and stops it from getting into your blood.

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Are You Low on Vitamin D?

Your doctor can test your blood to check your vitamin D levels. Consider getting one if you don’t get outside or have signs of low vitamin D, like osteoporosis or pain in your muscles or bones. A normal amount for adults is anything more than 20 nanograms per milliliter (ng/mL). Less than 12 could be a health problem. Supplements might help, but talk to your doctor first and don’t overdo it. Vitamin D levels over 100 ng/mL could be risky.

Healthy Reasons to Slice Into Watermelon

watermelon slices

Loaded With Lycopene

The cheery red color comes from lycopene, an antioxidant. Studies show it may help curb your risk of cancer and diabetes as part of a healthy lifestyle. Watermelon has more of this nutrient than any other fruit or veggie — even tomatoes. To load up on lycopene, choose a melon with bright red flesh rather than yellow or orange. And the riper, the better. Also, seedless melon tends to have more lycopene than those with seeds.

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Sun Benefit?

Some pigments help protect plants from the sun. Oddly enough, just eating them may shield your skin, too — at least a little. The lycopene in watermelon may make it less likely that you get sunburned. But that’s not for sure, so keep using your broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF of 30 or higher every day.

heart anatomy

Healthier Heart

Watermelon is rich in an amino acid called citrulline that may help move blood through your body and can lower your blood pressure. Your heart also enjoys the perks of all the lycopene watermelon contains. Studies show that it may lower your risk of heart attacks. Of course, your whole lifestyle affects your heart health. So make sure you also work out, don’t smoke, limit saturated fat, and keep up with your doctor’s advice.

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Protects Your Joints

Watermelon has a natural pigment called beta-cryptoxanthin that may protect your joints from inflammation. Some studies show that over time, it could make you less likely to get rheumatoid arthritis.

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Easy on Your Eyes

Just one medium slice of watermelon gives you contains 9-11% of the vitamin A you need each day. This nutrient is one of the keys to keeping your eyes healthy. Foods are the best ways to get all the vitamins and minerals that your body needs.

child eating watermelon

Naturally Sweet Hydration

Juicy watermelon is 92% water, so it’s a simple way to help stay hydrated. Every cell in your body needs water. Even a small shortage can make you feel sluggish. If you get really dehydrated, it can become serious enough that you need to get fluids by IV.

woman massaging her legs

Soothes Your Skin

Vitamins A, B6, and C in watermelon help your skin stay soft, smooth, and supple. Because it’s loaded with water, melon also makes a great face mask. Mix 1 tablespoon of watermelon juice with the same amount of Greek yogurt. Spread over your face and leave on for 10 minutes to slough off any dry, dull skin. Rinse and pat dry.

scoop of watermelon sorbet

Satisfies Your Sweet Tooth

A cup of ice cream will set you back around 300 calories. You can enjoy the same amount of watermelon for just 45.6 calories. And unlike many other desserts, it’s fat-free, low in cholesterol, and has no sodium. Plus, the water in it will help you stay fuller longer. To make an easy sorbet, puree some watermelon in your blender, add a squeeze of lime, and pop in the freezer until it hardens.

man doing rows in gym

Boosts Your Workout

Watermelon’s high water content, antioxidants, and amino acids may make for a better workout. It’s also high in potassium, a mineral that could cut down on cramps at the gym. You can sip watermelon juice after you sweat, too. Doing so could help prevent muscle soreness, as long as you don’t push yourself too hard.

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Won’t Spike Your Blood Sugar

Trying to keep your blood glucose levels steady? You’re in luck. Watermelon has a glycemic index (GI) value of 80, about the same as a bowl of cornflakes. But it’s got few carbs. That means its glycemic load (how quickly it enters your bloodstream and how much glucose it can produce) is a mere 5. Enjoy a slice without guilt!

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Easy to Digest

If you have a digestive condition like Crohn’s or colitis, the list of what not to eat during a flare can be long. You can put watermelon on your “yes” list. Its soft, fleshy fruit is easy for even an inflamed gut to digest. (Just don’t eat the rind or the seeds if you need to limit fiber.)

watermelon seeds close up

What If I Eat a Seed by Accident?

You may have been told as a kid that if you swallow watermelon seeds, they’ll grow in your belly. Not true! After all, your stomach has no sunlight or soil, and a lot of gastric acid. Many melons are seedless these days, but don’t worry if you do swallow a seed. They’re actually full of nutrients!

shopping for watermelon

Choose a Good One

Pick a melon that’s free of dents, nicks, and bruises. Look for a yellow, not white, spot on the bottom. This signals that it’s ripe. A juicy, ready-to-eat watermelon will feel heavy for its size. When you thump it, it should sound hollow.

watermelon in refrigerator

Safely Cut and Store Your Melon

Wash the outside of your melon before you slice into it. You don’t want your knife to transfer any germs to the inside. While melon tastes best right after it’s cut, you can store it in your fridge for up to 5 days. Freezing is an option, too. While the watermelon won’t stay crisp, you can thaw it to use in smoothies.

watermelon and feta salad

Don’t Stop With a Slice

A slice of fresh watermelon tastes great, but you can do more with it. Top a salad with cubed melon and crumbled feta cheese. Make a watermelon pizza by topping wedges with yogurt, mint, slivered almonds, and berries. And save the seeds! Tossed with olive oil and sea salt, they can be roasted for a tasty (and healthy) snack.