Vitamin D from the Sea: Put Better Bone Health on the Menu

Oily fish: Vitamin D from the Sea

Did you know that you can improve your bone health by eating more salmon, tuna, swordfish and mackerel? More than most foods, fatty fish contain high amounts of Vitamin D, essential to helping your body absorb bone-building minerals like calcium and phosphorous.

Vitamin D also has other roles in the body, including reduction of inflammation. It’s especially important for people with osteoporosis -- studies show that calcium and vitamin D together can increase bone density in postmenopausal women. Vitamin D also helps with other disorders associated with weak bones, like rickets. Additionally, recent studies show low levels of vitamin D may be a contributing risk factor type 1 diabetes, muscle and bone pain, and cancers of the breast, colon, prostate, ovaries, esophagus, and lymphatic system.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is naturally present in some foods, added to others, and also is available as a dietary supplement. It is also produced by your body when ultraviolet rays from sunlight strike your skin. Vitamin D on its own is biologically inert, but once ingested is activated in the liver and kidneys.

Certain foods are higher than others in Vitamin D. Fatty/oily fishes like salmon, tuna and mackerel are high, while smaller amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks. Vitamin D may also be added in processing to fortify foods – almost the entire US milk supply is fortified with Vitamin D, although cheeses and ice cream are not usually fortified. Some breakfast cereals contain added Vitamin D, as do some brands of orange juice and yogurt and margarine.

People who have low levels of vitamin D may need to take supplements. Vitamin D deficiencies are more common in those who:

  • Are over 50

  • Get very little sun exposure

  • Have kidney disease or diseases that affect the absorption of minerals

  • Have darker skin

  • Are lactose intolerant

  • Are vegan

  • Are infants who are fed only breast milk

We should say, however, that while we normally are more concerned about people not getting enough Vitamin D we should advise you don’t overdo it either. Here’s a link to some guidelines from the National Institutes of Health.

So what’s on your shopping list this week? Perhaps it’s worth taking another visit to the fish aisle.

Sources: National Institutes of Health, WebMD