Foods with Vitamin D: Are They Enough for Your Daily Needs?

Foods with Vitamin D - Vitamin D is best known as the sunshine vitamin. Ultraviolet light falling on the skin stimulates the production of this vitamin and hormone. Many people get their entire supply of vitamin D from sunlight. But what happens if you don't get enough sun?

The simple answer is, if you don't get sun, you have to get your vitamin D from food or supplements. Before we see if foods with vitamin D are enough for your daily needs, let's briefly review why vitamin D is so necessary for good health.

The main job of vitamin D is to regulate the body's use of calcium. Calcium isn't just the principal building material for healthy bones. It also passes in and out of cells thousands of times a second to help maintain electrical charges. Your muscles can't contract and relax without a very carefully regulated balance of calcium inside and outside the cell.

Vitamin D also tells cells that are multiplying too rapidly to slow down. Cells have to differentiate into slightly different forms for slightly different functions. When there is a mutation in DNA, cells multiply rapidly without differentiating to do their jobs. The net result can be cancer.

Vitamin slows down the process of cell proliferation long enough for mutations to be repaired. This prevents cancer. Getting enough foods with vitamin D or vitamin D supplements doesn't stop every kind of cancer but can be very important in certain situations. Vitamin D seems to:

  • Reduce the risk of colon cancer in men.
  • Reduce the risk of breast cancer in women before menopause.
  • Substantially reduce the risk of prostate cancer in African-American men, and to reduce the risk of prostate cancer in fair-skinned men

unless there is long-term mega-dosing (that is, taking a very high dosage of supplemental vitamin D for a long time actually raises the risk of prostate cancer in these men).

Getting enough foods with vitamin D or supplemental vitamin D reduces the risk of developing insulin-dependent diabetes, multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis, especially in dark-skinned persons, observant Muslim women, and persons living in the northern United States, Canada, northern Europe, Siberia, Alaska, or New Zealand.

Getting enough foods with vitamin D or supplemental vitamin D can lower high blood pressure. In one clinical study, taking 1,600 IU of vitamin D along with 800 mg of calcium every day for eight weeks lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressures by an average of 8 points. (Getting more sunlight during winter can have a similar effect.)

Vitamin D may slow down the ravages of Alzheimer's disease. It may boost immunity. And the number one application of foods with vitamin D and supplemental vitamin D in natural healing is maintaining bone health.

Researchers at Harvard University recently completed a study of 72,337 women over 18 years. They found that women who got the benefits of vitamin D from consuming what was once considered a high dose (about 500 IU) in food and supplements had a greatly lowered risk of broken hips. The Harvard researchers concluded that neither milk nor calcium is enough to maintain bone health, and that taking vitamin D supplements is a good idea.

No fracture is more likely to lead to death and disability than a broken hip. Vitamin D definitely helps prevent this condition. And although osteoporosis is more commonly associated with women than with men, over 5 million men a year in North America alone develop this disease.

So there's little doubt you need vitamin D. Can you get enough vitamin D from sunlight alone?

If you live north of 40 degrees north latitude (about the latitude of New York City) or south of 40 degrees south latitude (about the latitude of Wellington, New Zealand), for at least half of the year, you can't.

In Boston, Massachusetts, for instance, there is insufficient ultraviolet radiation in the sunlight for skin to make adequate amounts of vitamin D from early November to early March. On the South Island of New Zealand, vitamin D deficiency is a real risk from early May to early September. In Calgary, Alberta, residents don't get enough vitamin D even if they get daily sun exposure from October until nearly April. And in northern Europe, Alaska, and Russia, the problem is even worse.

You can, of course, get some vitamin D from foods with vitamin D. The problem is, the list of foods with vitamin D isn't very long, and they tend to lack taste appeal.

Food Vitamin D (IU)
Cod liver oil 2218
Herring (raw) 2061
Shiitake mushrooms (dried) 1122
Catfish (raw) 1122
Button mushrooms (raw) 691
Pink salmon, canned 530
Sardines (canned) 521
Herring (pickled) 519
Mackerel, canned 214
Caviar 184
Quaker Nutrition for Women Instant Oatmeal 140
Cow's milk, fortified with vitamin D 100
Orange juice, fortified with vitamin D 100
Vanilla milkshake (fast food) 52
Egg yolk 25
Mashed potatoes 11
Fruits and fruit juices 0
Cereal, fortified 40-50

Most over the counter nutritional supplements contain cholicalciferol, better known as vitamin D3. Foods with vitamin D may also contain another form of the vitamin called ergocalciferol or vitamin D2, which originates in plants.

Multivitamin supplements for children usually contain 200 IU (5 micrograms) of vitamin D3, and multivitamins for adults usually contain 400 IU (10 micrograms) per daily dose. Stand-alone vitamin D supplements usually offer 400 to 1,000 IU per day, and vitamin D is often included in calcium supplements.

It is possible to get too much vitamin D. In an extreme case in which a hamburger maker added vitamin D powder instead of salt to hamburger meat, hundreds of people developed a skin rash. Getting a "sunburn" without getting sun is a sure sign of taking too much vitamin D - but you'd have to take the whole bottle all at once and then go out and buy another one and take it for this to happen.

A single dose of even 100,000 IU is non-toxic, but unnecessary. If you don't have a rare vitamin D deficiency disease that should be treated under a physician's supervision, you never need more than 2,000 IU per day.

If you suffer hyperparathyroidism, lymphoma, sarcoidosis, or TB, taking supplemental vitamin D can cause the release of too much calcium into your bloodstream. Consult a physician before taking any vitamin D supplement if you have any of those conditions.

It's also important to consult a physician before taking supplemental vitamin D if you take digitalis (Digoxin). People who have a health condition requiring caution about vitamin D should also exercise caution before eating foods with vitamin D.

Some people need to be extra sure to get their D. Vitamin D is depleted by phenytoin (Dilantin), fosphenytoin (Cerebyx), phenobarbitol (Luminal), carbamazepine (Tegretol), and rifampin (Rimactane). Any prescription or non-prescription "fat blocker" will also stop the absorption of vitamin D from food.

If you take any of these medications, chances are you need supplemental vitamin D. Don't take any of these prescription medications and a vitamin D supplement at the same time. Elderly persons who don't get sunlight need supplemental vitamin D (as mentioned above) for bone health.

For everybody else, 400 IU of D a day assists in maintaining health. For best results, choose a balanced supplement including D and other supplements you need to thrive.

We recommend, Total Balance as the balanced supplement that will give you Vitamin D and all the other supplements you need for a healthy lifestyle. All of the 85 ingredients in Total Balance work in complete synergy without interfering with each other. Additionally, Total Balance can be taken with or without food.

We take Total Balance ourselves and are very happy with the results. We covered it in detail in the "what we take tab" on the upper left hand portion of this page.

More great vitamin information besides foods with vitamin D back at the home page.

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