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How to Get More Vitamin D Naturally

March 02, 2021

Worried about a vitamin D deficiency? We asked two registered dietitian nutritionists how you can increase your vitamin D intake. Their answers may surprise you.

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Eat Foods Fortified With or Naturally Rich in Vitamin D

When we think of vitamin D, which we need to keep our bones, teeth and muscles healthy, we usually think of the sun. But while spending time outdoors is a great way to naturally absorb vitamin D, it’s not the only way. We asked two registered dietitian nutritionists for their suggestions on how to get more of it. Aside from eating foods that are naturally rich in it, says Shana Minei Spence, a New York-based registered dietitian nutritionist who runs the health website The Nutrition Tea, you can look for foods in the grocery store that are fortified with vitamin D, like milks (both plant-based and dairy), yogurt, cereal and orange juice. “Many people are deficient, so I recommend taking a vitamin supplement if needed,” she says.

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Spend Time Outdoors in the Sun

“Vitamin D from regular sun exposure is one of the best ways for us to get an adequate supply [of vitamin D],” says May Zhu, a registered dietitian nutritionist who runs a blog called Nutrition Happens and works with companies like Setton Farms and Quaker Oats. We may only need 10 minutes to half an hour of midday sun exposure a few days a week in order to get sufficient vitamin D, she says. “However, skin color and skin sensitivity — in addition to your living location — can also affect the timing and absorption,” she says, which is why it’s important to make sure you’re eating vitamin D-rich foods, too. Make sure to protect your skin when you head out.

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Vitamin D is fat-soluble, “which means it’s stored in the body once we have adequate amounts,” May says. “This also means the body can take that vitamin D reserve and use it for months.” Fatty fish like salmon, sardines and tuna are rich in vitamin D, and salmon is at the top of May’s list. Try roasting or grilling salmon with a homemade citrus marinade for an ultra fresh-tasting meal, or topping eggs benedict with smoked salmon and a poached egg at brunch.

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You can find vitamin D in fatty fish like sardines, salmon and tuna. Sardines might not come to mind first when you think of tasty foods, but they can be more versatile than you think. Food Network calls them the "under-appreciated fish" and suggests grilling them with lemon juice, tossing them in a salad or making sardine-stuffed eggs.

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