- As many as 75% of Americans are lacking in vitamin D.
- While sunlight gets all the buzz for being a solid source of vitamin D, it's not foolproof when it comes to this essential nutrient—thanks to factors like city living, seasonal changes, and even SPF.
- In addition to logging time outside (with sun protection, of course), we recommend trying to get as much vitamin D as possible from your diet, and supplementing the rest.
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When we hear someone say they’re “getting their vitamin D,” it’s probably safe to assume that they’re headed outside to catch some much-needed rays. That’s because sun exposure is so well-known as the best source of this essential nutrient, the two have become practically interchangeable in daily conversation.
But while it’s true that the sun is an amazing resource in vitamin D production (if we want to get really technical, our skin absorbs photons from the sun to synthesize D), it’s not a fail-safe option, either—factors like urban dwelling, office jobs, the changing seasons, and even sunscreen can all get in the way of reaching your optimal vitamin D levels. In fact, some researchers estimate that as many as 75% of Americans are not getting the recommended amount of vitamin D. That’s not great for the processes this nutrient helps carry out in the body, like supporting calcium absorption, bone health, and immune function.*
That’s why it’s a good idea to become better-versed on all the other ways you can get enough vitamin D: like via certain foods, in addition to a multivitamin to help fill the gaps. “Ultimately, supplementation is a smart source of vitamin D given that most people don’t get enough adequate sunlight,” says nutritionist Michelle Davenport, PhD, RD, who is a member of Ritual’s scientific advisory board.
There are different variations but in a vitamin D supplement, you’ll want to aim for vitamin D3, since it’s the most bioactive form, says Davenport. (To put it simply, that means that it’s much easier for our bodies to absorb and utilize that form.) Keep an eye out for it on your vitamin label, since some will offer D2, which isn’t as ideal when it comes to vitamin D intake.
The D3 diet
“Dietary vitamin D is great, if you can get enough of it,” says Davenport, who notes that good food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, sardines and tuna. You’ll also find some D3 in egg yolks and beef liver. But there are a couple pitfalls to keep in mind. Even with these sources, you’d have to eat a good amount to meet your daily requirement—the equivalent of a 6-oz salmon. And even that’s not a guarantee.
“There can be variation depending on the type of salmon,” says Davenport. “Farmed salmon only contains about 25% of the D3 typically found in wild salmon.”
Your best bet? Aim for all three.
Sunlight, dietary sources, and supplementation, that is. One of the cool things about vitamin D is that because it’s fat-soluble, our body is able to store it for longer—so as long as you’re getting consistent daily intake from all of the three sources mentioned above, you’re already off to a great start.