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The Best Diet to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels

May 21, 2022
Written by
Team NutriSense

Last week, we told you all about the sunshine vitamin—what it is, and how to know if you need more of it. So, you likely already know that it’s a fat-soluble vitamin with many health benefits.

Unfortunately, most people don't consume enough vitamin D in their diets. As the National Cancer Institute states, approximately 20 percent of the American population doesn’t have adequate vitamin D levels in their blood. 

Sun exposure helps the body produce this vitamin, so it’s no surprise it’s called the sunshine vitamin. But can you also increase your intake of this essential vitamin through your diet? Yes and no.

While you shouldn’t depend wholly on your diet, certain foods have enough vitamin D content to boost your levels. However, vitamin D-rich foods won’t be enough for some people, and you may have to talk to your doctor about taking a vitamin D supplement.

Read on to learn more about vitamin D-rich foods and what you should include in your diet to make the most of this vitamin’s health benefits.

The Health Benefits of Vitamin D

A young brown man sitting outdoors with a laptop, wearing earphones and drinking what looks like orange juice

As we mentioned last week, this nutrient plays an essential role in many aspects of your health. From healthy bones and a well-supported immune system to your mood, metabolism, and cognitive function, there are many reasons to make sure you’re getting enough of it.

The vitamin regulates calcium absorption and mineralization, reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease and reducing inflammation. Recent research has also suggested that vitamin D deficiency may have links to autoimmune disorders like Crohn's, Multiple Sclerosis, and Hashimoto's thyroiditis. 

It’s generally found in two forms: ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). Additionally, research has shown that vitamin D can help prevent certain diseases and conditions, including: 

  • Osteoporosis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Rickets (in Children)
  • Cancer
  • Osteomalacia
  • Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes
  • Flu and the Common Cold
  • Heart Disease
  • Graves Disease
  • Tuberculosis
  • Depression  
  • Crohn’s Disease

Because maintaining optimal levels of vitamin Dis so crucial to overall health, it’s important to ensure you get enough vitamin D every day.

The National Institutes of Health recommends that adults under 50 consume 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D per day. In comparison, older adults (over 70) should consume 800 IU of vitamin D per day.

A Note on Vitamin D Deficiency and Toxicity

Before we dive into the perfect diet for vitamin D, let’s take a minute to focus on vitamin D deficiency. Having low levels of vitamin D is different from a deficiency, which is a serious health condition that affects millions of people worldwide.

People with a vitamin D deficiency typically experience fatigue, muscle weakness, low mood, and joint stiffness. Some people don’t experience any symptoms at all. 

Fortunately, several effective treatments can help with a vitamin D deficiency, like diet modification and supplementation. With early diagnosis and proper treatment, people can maintain healthy levels of this critical nutrient and prevent further complications.

On the flip side, getting too much isn’t good either. Vitamin D toxicity can cause nausea, vomiting, and weakness, lead to kidney damage and can be fatal in severe cases. As the study mentions, the upper limit is 4000 IU. Remember that toxicity is rare, so you should work with your doctor and find the supplementation amount that’s best for you. 

Is Vitamin D From Sun Exposure Good Enough?

A blond white lady enjoying the sun outdoors

So, do you need more of this in your diet? Is what your body produces enough? Whether or not Vitamin D from the sun is enough for your body is a topic of much debate in the health and wellness community.

Some experts argue that regular exposure to sunlight is enough to keep you healthy, while others claim that this can only do so much to fulfill your body's needs. There are several factors to consider, including skin tone, weather conditions, geographic location, and sunscreen application. 

While getting some sun is a good thing for various reasons, there are risks, including ultraviolet exposure, which can increase your risk of skin cancer. If you spend a lot of time in the sun, it’s best to practice sun safety like wearing sunscreen and spending enough time in the shade.

Ultimately, the best way to determine if vitamin D from sun exposure is sufficient for your body is through consultation with a medical professional. What we do know is that several nutrient-rich foods also have good vitamin D content, and if your body tolerates them, they can be an excellent addition to a healthy diet.

Our Favorite Food Sources of Vitamin D

We know that you need an average of 400-600 IU of vitamin D per day, and while your body will usually get a lot of this from sun exposure, certain foods can also help boost the amount of vitamin D in your system.

If you’re looking to increase your vitamin D intake and don’t know where to start, consider working with a credentialed dietitian or nutritionist to see what works best for you. In the meantime, here are some great vitamin D-rich foods to consider adding to your diet.

Yogurt

Overhead shot of two wooden bowls on a marble table, with strawberry yogurt bananas, strawberries, blueberries and granola topping. Two wooden spoons and berries alongside

Though you might not think of yogurt and dairy products as a natural source of vitamin D, some brands add it in during the manufacturing process.

These are known as fortified foods. It’s always a good idea to check the nutrition facts label to see how much vitamin D is in each serving. 

Orange Juice

Most people know that orange juice is a good source of vitamin C, but did you know that it also contains vitamin D? 

According to the USDA, a single cup of orange juice has about 15 percent of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin D, making it an easy way to get your daily dose of this vital nutrient.

Remember, it’s important to check the nutrition facts label here, too, since many store-bought orange juices may also contain added sugar. And of course, consider consuming the whole fruit over fruit juice whenever you can, and have your fruit juice with a balanced meal to encourage better blood glucose responses. 

Eggs

Image of a fried egg on toast

Eggs, especially egg yolks, are a rich source of many different nutrients, including protein and essential vitamins and minerals.

And one of those beneficial nutrients is vitamin D. Eggs are a good source of this nutrient, with one large egg providing approximately 16 percent of the recommended daily intake.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout is one of the most popular types of fish in North America, prized for its delicate, flaky flesh and mild flavor. This fish has a rich buttery flavor and contains high levels of essential nutrients such as protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D.

In fact, according to the USDA, just one serving of rainbow trout contains almost all of the recommended daily value of vitamin D

Sardines

Sardines are small, fatty fish that are a popular food source in many cultures. Although they are often consumed whole, bones and all, sardines can also be found boneless in canned form.

Sardines are one of the best sources of vitamin D, providing almost 30 percent of the recommended daily amount in just one serving. In addition to being a good source of vitamin D, sardines are also high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have numerous health benefits.

Other fatty fish like mackerel and herring are also good sources of vitamin D.

Mushrooms

There are thousands of different types of mushrooms, some used for culinary purposes for centuries. Mushrooms are one of the few plant-based sources of vitamin D.

You can enjoy them cooked or raw, and they make a delicious addition to salads, stir-fries, and other dishes. In addition, mushrooms are low in calories and fat, and they are a good source of fiber.

Something to note is that while they provide vitamin D2, they may not be as good as raising your vitamin D levels as a food source that contains vitamin D3.

Soy Milk

Soy milk is made from soaked, ground soybeans. The soybean pulp is then removed, and the remaining liquid is fortified with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D. 

One cup of soy milk contains about 20 percent of the recommended daily value for vitamin D. Soy milk can be a good choice for lactose intolerant people or those who have difficulty digesting cow's milk protein. 

It's also a good choice for vegans or vegetarians. Soy milk is a good source of other nutrients, including protein, potassium, and magnesium.

Salmon

Image of Norwegian salmon and asparagus on a cooking tray

A three-ounce serving of sockeye salmon provides more than 75 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin D. Salmon is also a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients are essential for heart health, brain function, and joint health.

In addition, salmon is low in mercury, making it a safe choice for pregnant women and young children. 

Organ Meat

If you haven’t already read our article on the many, many health benefits of organ meat, you should! One of those health benefits is thanks to its vitamin D content.

Beef liver, in particular (can we add the international units here), is very rich in vitamin D.

A Note on Vitamin D Supplements

A hand holding supplement with oranges and pills in the backgroud

Vitamin D supplementation is increasingly popular, with many people taking it regularly. As you’ll see in this fact-sheet on vitamin D supplements from the Office of Dietary Supplements, it’s available as both multivitamin supplements and dietary supplements.

And for many, who only see the sun sporadically through the winter months, food sources may not be enough to get your recommended daily intake.

But before you start adding a daily vitamin D supplement to your routine to ensure your body receives enough of this nutrient, consult a doctor to make sure you can tolerate it and that it’s the right choice for your body.

Something to note here: most over-the-counter fat-soluble vitamins will have micrograms(mcg) or milligrams on the label. It’s because of an FDA rule that requires listing absolute amounts in these units, as well as putting the percent daily value on the label.

Some Medications Can Interfere With Your Vitamin D Intake

Did you know that certain medications can interfere with your vitamin D intake?

Examples of such medications include anticonvulsants, certain psoriasis medications, steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), cholesterol medications, and many birth control pills or hormones.

To ensure you get enough vitamin D, talk to your doctor about any medications you’re on so they can see whether they will impact these levels. You can work with your healthcare provider to make necessary adjustments with supplementation or dietary changes. 

If you’re on any medication, be aware of symptoms like fatigue and muscle weakness, which may indicate that you are deficient in the nutrient. By working closely with your doctor, you can effectively address any issues related to vitamin D interference and maintain optimal levels.

Understand Your Nutrient Needs With NutriSense

Many devices and programs make managing your health easier. A continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, is one of them. It can be a helpful tool for those with vitamin D deficiencies or anyone who wants to optimize their health.

When you sign up for NutriSense, you get a CGM sensor and access to an innovative app that will give you insights into your blood glucose data. NutriSense’s CGM program also provides personalized support from a team of credentialed dietitians and nutritionists to help interpret the data and make lifestyle changes to manage various health conditions.

Click here to listen to the podcast.
Listen to the full podcast:
The Best Diet to Increase Your Vitamin D Levels
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Improving Fat Loss, Muscle Gain and Fitness With Continual Glucose Monitors
Improving Fat Loss, Muscle Gain and Fitness With Continual Glucose Monitors

Kara Collier and Dan Zavorotny talk continuous glucose monitors on the Mind Pump podcast.

Story
8
min
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Dry Needling: Can it Really Help with Muscle Pain?
Dry Needling: Can it Really Help with Muscle Pain?

Dry needling is a therapeutic technique used by physical therapists and healthcare practitioners in an effort to alleviate pain and help restore movement in the body. Read on to find out more.

Story
11
min
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Healthiest Fast Food Choices
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Healthiest Fast Food Choices

Wondering what the healthiest fast food options are?  Here are some of the healthiest choices at fast food restaurants, according to dietitians.

Story
11
min
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Here’s What a Realistic Weight Loss Timeline Looks Like
Here’s What a Realistic Weight Loss Timeline Looks Like

Many people try crash diets to lose weight fast, which may provide some short term results but don't work for the long haul. Here is a realistic timeline for healthy weight loss.

Story
8
min
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9 Great Apps to Track Nutrition
9 Great Apps to Track Nutrition

Tracking nutrition has never been easier due to instant access to nutrition tracking apps. Here are the best ones.

Story
9
min
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6 Popular IBS-Friendly Diets
6 Popular IBS-Friendly Diets

Learn more about irritable bowel syndrome, and see what popular IBS-friendly diets people follow to ease their symptoms.

Story
9
min
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What You Need to Know About Neuropathy
What You Need to Know About Neuropathy

Neuropathy, or nerve damage, can cause pain, discomfort, and interfere with daily tasks. Explore effective ways to prevent and manage it.

Story
9
min
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The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet
The Health Benefits of Adding Fermented Foods to Your Diet

Fermented foods have a range of health benefits. Read on to learn more about what they are and why you should be adding them to your diet.

Story
12
min
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13 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress
13 Healthy Ways to Relieve Stress

Stress can negatively affect your entire body. Here are thirteen different ways to reduce stress in your life.

Story
12
min
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Best Physical and Mental Health Apps Available in 2022
Best Physical and Mental Health Apps Available in 2022

Here are the eleven best physical and mental health apps available in the app store.

Podcast
33
min
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Improving Metabolic Health with Carlee Hayes
Improving Metabolic Health with Carlee Hayes

On this episode of Passionate Pioneers with Mike Biselli, Carlee Hayes, Nutrition Manager at NutriSense, discusses the company’s digital platform that aims to help others discover and reach their health potential.

Podcast
40
min
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Carlee Hayes talks Metabolic Health with Rejuvenaging
Carlee Hayes talks Metabolic Health with Rejuvenaging

In this episode of Rejuvenaging with Dr. Ron Kaiser, Carlee explains how to cut through the online nutrition industry's noise, why we shouldn't look for a one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to nutrition, and how CGMs work.

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6
min
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Fruit Juice or Whole Fruit? What You Should Pick and Why
Fruit Juice or Whole Fruit? What You Should Pick and Why

Should you be drinking your fruits? Read on to find out more about juicing, whole fruits, and why one may be better for you than the other.

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7
min
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Meet the Blood-Glucose Friendly Rambutan: What It Is and How to Eat It
Meet the Blood-Glucose Friendly Rambutan: What It Is and How to Eat It

Do you know what a rambutan is? Learn more about this blood-glucose-friendly tropical fruit and why you should add it to your diet.

Story
13
min
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Organ Meats: Should You Be Adding Them to Your Diet?
Organ Meats: Should You Be Adding Them to Your Diet?

Learn about the health benefits and risk factors of adding organ meats to your meals, and try our favorite recipes using these nutritional treasure troves. 

Story
6
min
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Five Cancer Research Developments of the Last Five Years
Five Cancer Research Developments of the Last Five Years

Read on to learn more about five of the most promising developments in cancer research.

Story
8
min
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A Quick Look at Meditation and Blood Glucose 
A Quick Look at Meditation and Blood Glucose 

Learn more about meditation, how it positively impacts blood sugar, and how you can start incorporating it into your routine.

Story
7
min
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Tasty, Nutritious Salads You'll Love
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Tasty, Nutritious Salads You'll Love

Salads don't have to be boring! Our Nutrition Team recommends nine delicious, nutritious salads to help you find your favorite.

Story
7
min
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Do You Need More Vitamin D?
Do You Need More Vitamin D?

Most people get the vitamin D they need from exposure to sunlight, but if you don't spend enough time outdoors, you may not be getting enough of this vital nutrient. Read our article to learn more.

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6
min
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Your Mother's Day Gift Guide
Your Mother's Day Gift Guide

Can't decide on the perfect gift for Mother's Day? Pick from a list of ideas to find a healthy, but still exciting gift this year.

Story
8
min
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Can Soy Really Prevent Diabetes?
Can Soy Really Prevent Diabetes?

Some research suggests that eating soy may reduce your risk of developing diabetes. Read on to learn whether that's true and find out more about the other health benefits of soy.

Story
9
min
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Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Celiac Disease
Living with Autoimmune Conditions: Celiac Disease

Did you know that 23.5 million Americans live with autoimmune conditions? Learn more about the symptoms and causes of celiac disease and what you can do about it.

Story
7
min
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Positive Thinking May Affect More Than Your Mental Health 
Positive Thinking May Affect More Than Your Mental Health 

It's no secret that positive thinking can improve your mood and help you cope with difficult situations. Review our article to see how a positive outlook may also benefit your physical health.

Story
10
min
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The Best Diet for Menstruation
The Best Diet for Menstruation

When it comes to your menstrual cycle, what you eat can significantly impact how you feel. Read on to learn more about the best foods to add to your diet to help during that time of the month.

Story
8
min
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9 Unusual Health Conditions You May Not Know About
9 Unusual Health Conditions You May Not Know About

Though most of us may never encounter these, these health conditions are still fascinating to learn more about. Read our article to find out more about nine of the most fascinating, unusual health conditions.

Story
10
min
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The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar 
The Positive Impact Weight Lifting Has on Blood Sugar 

Here is everything you need to know about the relationship between weight lifting and blood sugar.

Podcast
17
min
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Two to 80 Employees in Just Two Years
Two to 80 Employees in Just Two Years

In this 20-minute conversation, Dan shares how he’s putting a Rockstar in every seat. And mistakes to avoid along the way.

Podcast
45
min
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Understanding how Glucose Effects our Metabolic Health with Kara Collier
Understanding how Glucose Effects our Metabolic Health with Kara Collier

Kara, registered dietitian, and co-founder of NutriSense, discusses how blood glucose levels are a core marker of metabolic health. She dives into the health consequences of fluctuating blood glucose levels, and what levels to look fasted compared to post-meal.

Podcast
57
min
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Using Real-Time Data to Improve Metabolic Health with Kara Collier
Using Real-Time Data to Improve Metabolic Health with Kara Collier

Today on the podcast, Kara Collier, RDN, LDN, CNSC, discusses revolutionizing preventative healthcare. It’s her mission to empower people with the knowledge to effectively monitor, optimize, and sustain their own metabolic health.

Story
10
min
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11 Simple and Effective Weight Loss Tips for Men
11 Simple and Effective Weight Loss Tips for Men

Losing weight is typically easier for men than women, biologically speaking, but it's still challenging! Here are 11 simple yet effective tips for losing weight for men.

Story
9
min
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What are the Best Times to Eat for Losing Weight?
What are the Best Times to Eat for Losing Weight?

Review our helpful article where we discuss the best times to eat if you are trying to lose weight.

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10
min
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NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Books on Metabolic Health
NutriSense Dietitians Recommend: Best Books on Metabolic Health

Whether you're looking for weight loss tips or to learn more about metabolism, a little reading material can go a long way. To help you get started, here’s some books on metabolic health, recommended by our Nutrition Team.

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9
min
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Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): Can It Replace Your Workout?
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): Can It Replace Your Workout?

NEAT can’t replace the benefits of intense cardio or strength-training workouts but like any physical activity, it has many overall health and fitness benefits. Read on to find out everything you need to know about NEAT.

Podcast
40
min
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NutriSense CGM Program Review
NutriSense CGM Program Review

On this week's episode, Shannon describes the comfort, cost, usability, and education she experienced using the continuous glucose monitor program from NutriSense.

Podcast
25
min
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Track Your Health in Real-Time with Dan Zavorotny
Track Your Health in Real-Time with Dan Zavorotny

On this episode of the Making Bank podcast, Dan Zavorotny discusses how he started the company “NutriSense” and how it reached a 150 million dollar valuation in 26 months.

Podcast
37
min
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Can a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) Help You Lose Weight?
Can a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) Help You Lose Weight?

Carlee Hayes talks to This Podcast Burns Fat! about the important role blood sugar plays in weight management.