The Vitamin You Need to Watch This Winter

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Winter is in full force, and you might be experiencing a lot of overcast days in your part of the world—which could be having an effect on your body's supply of vitamin D. Often called ''the sunshine vitamin,'' vitamin D can be synthesized by the body when we get enough exposure to sunlight. However, in the colder months when sun isn't as readily available, we sometimes have to rely a little more on nutrition to meet our daily vitamin D quotas.

Vitamin D is an important nutrient for bone health, as it promotes the absorption of calcium, and some studies even show that it could help prevent cancer. Obviously, vitamin-D milk is a good source of vitamin D, but salmon has also been said to have a hefty amount of the important nutrient. Which do you think contains more of the ''sunshine vitamin'': A 3-ounce portion of cooked sockeye salmon, or 1 cup of nonfat, vitamin-D fortified milk?

The Winner: Salmon!
Just 3 ounces of cooked salmon contains 112% of your daily quota for vitamin D! One cup of milk only has 29-31% of your daily value. For more great sources of vitamin D, check out the information below from the National Institutes of Health.

Food Percent Daily Value of Vitamin D
Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon 340
Swordfish, cooked, 3 ounces 142
Salmon (sockeye), cooked, 3 ounces 112
Tuna fish, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces 39
Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup 34
Milk, nonfat, reduced fat, and whole, vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup 29-31
Soy milk, enriched, 1 cup 25
Rice milk, enriched, 1 cup 25
Almond milk, 1 cup 25
Yogurt, fortified with 20% of the DV for vitamin D, 6 ounces 20
Margarine, fortified, 1 tablespoon 15
Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 2 sardines 12
Liver, beef, cooked, 3 ounces 11
Egg, 1 large (vitamin D is found in yolk) 10
Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with 10% of the DV for vitamin D, 0.75-1 cup 10
Do you think you get enough sun where you live? How do you get your vitamin D?

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Because I have osteopenia and take calcium, I have my vitamin D checked every 6 months. I also take a supplement. Report
The 400 unit value was set years ago and is only enough to prevent rickets. We older people especially need to get our blood level of D checked. Vitamin D goes hand in hand with calcium absorption into the bones to help keep them strong. Report
I'm a native Floridian. A day without sun is rare. And I prefer to walk outdoors or go swimming for my workouts. However I was diagnosed as very Vitamin D3 deficient last July: score was 13 out of 100. After taking 10,000 units for 3 months that was up to 38. So I'm now supplementing with 5,000. I think something else is going on here BESIDES sun. I know that the Way you get out in the sun and what you do afterwards is important. For example, your skin works on turning the waxy coating that form on your skin into vitamin D for about 3 hours after you're in the sun. If you have on sunscreen, that can't happen. Also, if you shower after a sunny workout, you wash away the benefit.

But I think something else is going on besides these sunscreen or showering problems and will require more research into the process or other elements which might affect Vitamin D levels or what we wind up thinking is optimum for our health.

I can definitely see a change in my health since starting the supplement. Report
VonnieDee1, I believe Vegans use ONLY plant products, nothing from an animal, including fish. Vegetarians will sometimes consume "animal products" such as milk or cheese or perhaps an egg, but usually will still not eat animal flesh. Report
To Chris-Mck...Spark does mention soy milk, rice milk, almond milk and margarine, orange juice, and cereal!! Do vegans have a problem with fish??
As a SoCal gal who exercises (running/walking) outdoors most days, I'm pretty confident that I probably get a sufficient amount of Vitamin D. Furthermore, after reading the list of Vitamin sources, I probably get a sufficient amount of Vitamin D from from my diet too. Probably wouldn't hurt to get a test, which I may bring up the next time I see my doctor. Thx for the info. :) Report
I already knew this. But thank-you for the update! Report
I get my vitamin D from supplements - there's plenty of sunshine where I live, even in the winter, but I can't be too exposed to it because of very fair skin and family history of melanoma. Report
Seems like most of the products on the list are 'fortified' with vitamin D. I wonder how much sense that makes. Report
I take supplements with calcium and Vitamin D. I also try to sit in my office with the shade to get the morning sun in the winter to help. I also eat eggs and drink milk. Report
One more reason my mood has improved since I retired from working 10 hrs/ day in a windowless basement and started playing golf as much as possible. Yeah! Report
Not in winter. I kind of hibernate! Report
Comment: No wonder our mothers were so adamant about our taking a tablespoon of cod liver oil daily. I do remember those days with dismay and yet weren't they smart! Report
Here in Alaska, we really need our D. I have found my winter mood has improved the past couple of years since I started taking a D supplement. And happy to have another reason to eat our plentiful salmon! Report
I really need to eat more salmon - good excuse!
Definitely an important topic to discuss with your doctor... I work outside and cover up most of my skin plus wear mineral sunscreen. My doctor informed me that it didn't matter and that my latitude indicated I wouldn't get enough Vitamin D from sunshine anyway. She said the Vitamin D test was expensive and would definitely show I was deficient so she gave me a range to supplement with along with more calcium. Take good care of yourselves! :) Report
I drink Neuro Sun. A 14.5 oz bottle has 250% of the DV. I add just 4 oz. of it to my fortified OJ every morning. It makes up for whatever I'm missing in my diet.
Neuro makes a number of different drinks, that are supposed to provide different benefits for you. They are offered somewhat "tounge in cheek" and the bottles do have a disclaimer that says the statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Admin.
Draw your own conclusions, but I kinda feel like what's the difference. If it's added to this drink or milk or OJ. It's all the same. It's like Vitamin Water, only not as popular or easy to find.
My only gripe is the stores by me do not pull expired products off the shelves. So be sure to check those dates. Also, if the bottle looks squished or has a sediment at the bottom, they have gone bad.
After watching a Dr. Oz episode a long time ago, I asked my Dr. for a Vitamin D test. She said it was unnecessary as I didn't have any of the risk factors due to my skin color and that we live in sunny California. I kept insisting she give me the test and she finally gave in. I was vitamin D deficient and it took several months to get my numbers up to the low range of acceptable. Now I am monitored annually to make sure my numbers are in range. I try to get some natural Vit D (sunshine) and avoid sunscreen if I will only be out in the sun for a very short time; I also take 50,000 D3 weekly to keep from becoming deficient again. Report
what about mushrooms?

I thought this article was very interesting. it's winter and i'm not getting outside as much. i wonder if putting mushrooms, gill side up, on a plate in a sunny window would work. Report
what about mushrooms? i thought this article was pretty interesting.

it's winter and i'm not getting outside as much but I wonder if putting a few mushrooms (gill side up) on a plate in a sunny window would work. Report
DS9KIE, that's because there AREN'T any natural plant sources of Vitamin D. Apparently certain kinds of mushrooms and yeast can produce it after being exposed to UV light though, which, guess what, is how animals produce it. Report
Here in Maine the winter days are short and sometimes we do not really see the sun for days at a time. I knew Vitamin D is important but never realized that Cod Liver Oil was such a great source of the vitamin. Thank you for the information and the article. Tomorrow off to the health food store for the oil. Report
good grief not one thing that is a plant. Its all animal products and processed stuff. Report
We haven't gotten brighter than twilight in weeks. I take supplements, to go with my calcium, and wait for the sun to shine. Report
I spend the winter in the sunshine state and actually worry about getting too much Vitamin D. And in the summer I get plenty of sunshine. I also take a multi-vitamin and my nutrition feedback never says I need more Vitamin D.
My parents gave us all Cod Liver Oil, raised 6 kids and none of us ever had a broken bone or serious health problems as kids!!! Report
I see now it wasn't a bad thing for our mother to make us take a teaspoon (not tablespoon) of cod liver oil everyday in the winter.

Thanks mom. Maybe I'll go get some. In the pill form that is. Report
I get my Vitamin D from milk, eggs, orange juice and as added supplement with my calcium. Report
I will have to try some of this! I've tried the liver oil pills, but burping fish smell was NOT good. I'll try some of the others though! Report
Thank you, Chris-MCK, for that link! We all take a Vitamin D supplement at my house. I'm not sure if it's true but I've read that it helps prevent cancer and the FLU. I'm not messing around. If it can help avoid those things, I'm taking it! Report
I'm vegan, and I have the impression that there are a number of vegans in the SparkPeople community. It looks as if vegan sources of vitamin D weren't taken into account at all in this post--for example, is it not the case that nut milks are fortified at a level comparable to the dairy milk listed here?

Editors and authors of The Daily Spark, please take include vegan sources of nutrients in your posts. Those interested in vegan sources of vitamin D would do well to consult the Vegetarian Resource Group's vitamin D FAQ at
The nurse in the infusion center said I should take Vitamin D even though I drink a lot ao milk Report
I had a blood test for Vitamin D levels a few years ago. I was very deficient. Very. My doctor prescribed 50000 iu prescription dose 1 x per week + 2000 iu 2 x per day D3 (over the counter). My blood levels were checked frequently. It took a full year of this before my blood levels of Vitamin D reached the lower minimum level. I no longer take the prescription D. I do continue to take OTC Vitamin D3 and have blood levels checked annually. Vitamin D seemed to help my moods and my energy. By all means, talk with your medical professional, do research, and make your decisions based on your situation. Report
As a pale redhead living in the south, this is one nutrient I have never had to worry about. ;) I have NO defenses against the sun, and down here it gets warm. Heck, it was 80 today! Report
I am outside every day and still my vitamin D level was too low. My Dr advised me to take 300mg vit D supplement/daily. I hope to see a change soon. Report
Thanks for reminding us and giving us such a nice chart. Report
I get it mainly from Salmon and I try to get out in the sun when it's shining. I may need to take a supplement but I do eat yogurt also but have not had any in a couple of weeks. Yes I need to check on my numbers. Thank you for the reminder!!! Report
I finally have the answer to why my mother forced me to take a spoonful of cod liver oil every night during the winter. I hated it and think it's the reason I don't like fish to this day. As an adult I asked her why she gave it to us. She said because her mother gave it to her, and her grandmother gave it to her mother, etc. Who'd a thunk it had anything to do with vitamin D.

Just another story of how those old home remedies, actually had some sound science behind them! Report
A few years ago after a comprehensive blood test I found out my Vitamin D level was "12" or "severely deficient". I had no clue.....I've been taking D supplements ever since...
Good info. Vitamin deficiencies can sure creep up on you. I take calcium fortified with D, so I get both together. Report
I take a Vitamin D pill every day. Also good for boosting immunity. Report
I was recently diagnosed with a vitamin D deficiency. Doctor has me on 4000 iu a day for the next 6 months and we will recheck then. I've been studying a lot about the effects/symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency. If you have any of these symptoms it might be worth your while to ask your doctor to test your levels of vitamin D: bone pain, muscle cramps and weakness, fatigue, osteoporosis to name just a few. Obesity is also related to low vitamin D levels. According to recent researches, low levels of vitamin D can prevent a person from losing weight. Many women (and men) think it may be thyroid problems keeping them from losing weight. When it could be a lack of vitamin D. Report
I live in Canada and even in summer we don't get enough Vitamin D from the sun and I can't drink milk, so I don't take any chances. As a post-menopausal woman, I take 2,000 iu's plus whatever is in my calcium and vitamins. It comes up to about 3,000 iu's a day. Report
Supplement with 2,000 IU daily. Living in a dreary snowy climate in winter keeps me indoors and during the week it's dark when I leave for work and when I come home. Report
Never considered a Vitamin D deficiency, but guess I'll check out the possibility. Thanks for the info. Report
I always thought I got enough. Recently, I had a stress fracture in my foot and my doctor tested my Vitamin D levels. It was very low. Report
I always thought I got enough Vitamin D, at least during the summer, but I asked the doctor to test my levels just to be sure and I found out I was severely deficient. So now I'm on mega doses for three months to hopefully get me up to a normal range. Report
No, I don't go out in the Sun much even though I live in Florida, but I take Flintstone Chewable vitamins daily and I get enough Vitamin D. Report
I can't wait to try some of these!!! Report