Over the past decade, vitamin D (technically a hormone) has become one of the most researched nutrients—and for good reason. Not only is it critical for bone health, cell growth, immune function, and other body processes, it may also play a role in preventing inflammation and protecting against several forms of cancer. There has been some controversy around the optimal amount: while the RDIs for vitamin D were recently updated to 600 IU per day for adults, some studies suggest that a higher intake (as much as 3,000 IU per day) is needed to maintain optimal blood levels.
Your body naturally produces vitamin D when UV rays from the sun hit your skin, but in cold winter months or northern climates—or if you use sunscreen religiously—you may not get enough. And because vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods, mostly animal products, vegetarians and vegans are at a particularly high risk of deficiencies. Here’s how to meet your needs during the coldest, grayest days of winter:
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One large, commercially raised egg has about 20 IU of vitamin D, but pasture-raised versions have three to four times as much. Eggs from chickens who were fed vitamin D-enriched feed may have as much as 500 IU per egg. The vitamin D is concentrated in the yolk, so egg white omelets won’t do it. If you’re worried about fat, poach or boil eggs instead of cooking them in oil.