back to blog

5 Things to Know About Vitamin D5 Things to Know About Vitamin D


5 Things to Know About Vitamin D

Vitamin D and calcium are both important for bone health.

While calcium builds bone, vitamin D is needed for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D also regulates blood levels of calcium to support normal bone mineralization (bone building) and to prevent calcium from dipping to dangerously low levels. Vitamin D and calcium work together to protect against osteoporosis and other conditions related to weak or brittle bones.

The body makes vitamin D.

When sunlight hits the skin, the body produces vitamin D. The National Institutes of Health report that the process requires 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight to the face, arms, back, or legs at least three times per week. Darker skin requires more time in the sun and lighter skin less time. Although sunscreens interfere with this process, you should avoid spending more than a few minutes in the sun without it due to increased risks for skin cancer.

Some people are at greater risk for vitamin D deficiency.

The forms of vitamin D made through sunlight and consumed in food and supplements must be converted to an active form to be used in the body. This takes place in the liver and the kidneys. As you age, not only is the body less efficient at making vitamin D from sunlight, the kidneys also become less effective at converting the vitamin to it’s active form. This makes older adults at greater risk for vitamin D deficiencies. Obesity also interferes with vitamin D function. Research shows that excess body fat may bind to vitamin D reducing blood levels and the amount available to support bone health. Those who live in places with more cloud cover, shorter days, or smog may also be at risk for deficiency due to reduced exposure to sunlight.

Food sources for vitamin D are limited.

Vitamin D is found naturally in few foods. The best sources are fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, and fish liver oils. Small amounts are also found in eggs, cheese, and mushrooms, specifically mushrooms that have been treated with ultraviolet light. Some foods are fortified with vitamin D such as orange juice, milk, yogurt, and breakfast cereals. The recommended intake for vitamin D in adults 70 and under is 600 International Units, and 800 International Units for adults over 70. Vitamin D is only listed on a nutrition label if the food has been fortified with it, making it difficult to measure exact intake.

Too much vitamin D from supplements is dangerous.

Due to a limited supply of natural vitamin D in food and limited sun exposure, many people turn to supplements. Supplements can be effective at raising blood levels of vitamin D, but it is important to monitor your intake. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin and excess is stored in the body making large doses toxic. Over time, toxicity can lead to weak bones and muscles, and kidney damage. The safe upper limit for adults is set at 4000 International Units per day. If you take a multi-vitamin that contains vitamin D, eat fortified foods, and take a high-dose vitamin D supplement, it’s possible to consume too much.


Healthy Protein SourcesHealthy Protein Sources


Healthy Protein Sources
Soy-based tofu is a complete protein

Protein is necessary for building muscle and for healthy function of cells throughout the body. It is recommended that adults get 10-35 percent of their daily calories from protein. That’s 50 to 175 grams for a person eating 2,000 calories per day. Whether you are a meat eater or a vegetarian, you can find plenty of high quality protein options to meet your daily need.

Complete vs. Incomplete Proteins

Proteins are made up of amino acids. The body can produce some of the amino acids it needs, but it must obtain essential amino acids from food. When a food contains all nine of the essential amino acids, it is called a complete protein. Animal-based foods such as meat, milk, and eggs are complete proteins. There are a few plant-based complete proteins such as soybeans and quinoa.

The majority of plant foods provide incomplete proteins. This means that they are without at least one of the essential amino acids, or they contain such a low amount that it would be difficult to meet nutrition guidelines for that amino acid without an unrealistic number of servings. This doesn’t mean you can’t get all of the amino acids you need with a vegetarian eating style. The key is to eat plant protein from multiple sources. Research has shown that by eating a variety of plant foods throughout the day, you consume different amino-acids that will be used to form complete proteins.

Animal-based Protein Sources

Many foods from animal sources supply a significant amount of complete protein.

  • Canned tuna (2 ounces) - 13 grams
  • Chicken breast (4 ounces) - 35 grams
  • Cottage Cheese, low-fat (½ cup) - 12 grams
  • Cow milk, low-fat (8 ounces) - 9.7 grams
  • Eggs (1 large) - 6.3 grams
  • Goat milk, low-fat (8 ounces) - 7.4 grams
  • Greek yogurt, non-fat, plain (1 cup) - 22 grams
  • Tilapia (4 ounces) - 21 grams
  • Turkey breast (4 ounces) - 32.6 grams
  • Wild salmon (3 ounces) - 22 grams

Plant-based Protein Sources

There are many plant sources for quality protein. Eat a variety of plant foods throughout the day to get all of the essential amino acids the body needs.

  • Almond butter (2 tbsp) - 7 grams
  • Chickpeas (1 cup) - 11.9 grams
  • Edamame (1 cup) - 26 grams
  • Lentils (1 cup) - 17.9 grams
  • Peanuts (¼ cup) - 8.6 grams
  • Pistachios (¼ cup) - 6 grams
  • Quinoa (1 cup) - 6 grams
  • Soba (buckwheat) noodles (1 cup) - 5.8 grams
  • Soy milk (8 ounces) - 6 grams
  • Split peas (1 cup) - 16.4 grams
  • Firm tofu (3 oz) - 8 grams


Look Out for These Words on Food LabelsLook Out for These Words on Food Labels


Look Out for These Words on Food Labels


This term has yet to be fully defined and often goes unregulated. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration states that it has not developed a definition for the term, but it does not object to it being used for foods that do not contain artificial flavors, added color, or synthetic substances. While consumers may like to believe that "natural" means the product is less processed, this may not always be the case. Don't assume "natural" means healthy. Be sure to look past this term and analyze nutrition labels and ingredient lists.

"Low Sugar" or "Sugar Free"

Eating less sugar can improve health and promote weight loss, but when a product says it is "low sugar" or "sugar free," check the ingredient label closely. This often means that the sugar was replaced with something else, usually an artificial sweetener. Some research has linked the intake of artificial sweeteners to weight gain. As researchers continue to investigate the topic, it may be best to limit both added sugars and artificial sweeteners.

"Trans Fat Free"

The American Heart Association recommends limiting trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of total calories per day. For most people, this is fewer than 2 grams. According to labeling laws, a food that contains fewer than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving can be labeled as "trans fat free." If you eat more than one serving of a food with just under 0.5 grams of trans fat, you will quickly reach your 2 gram limit without realizing it. Read ingredient lists closely. The phrase "partially hydrogenated oils" is an indicator that the product contains trans fat.

"Product" or "Food"

These terms are often used when food has been heavily processed or when it combines a variety of ingredients to form a product that resembles a food you may be familiar with. The most common use is with cheese. Check the labels closely. "Cheese foods" and "cheese products" may contain little to no cheese at all. You may be better off enjoying a small amount of the real food in moderation instead of consuming the highly-processed fillers.


"Spread" is a term used when a product does not meet regulations to be called the food it resembles. For example, peanut butter must contain 90 percent peanuts. When the product doesn’t, it is called a peanut spread. In some cases, spreads use fillers like corn-syrup solids and partially hydrogenated oils. These ingredients may lower total fat, but they increase added sugar and dangerous trans fats. It may be better to skip artificial spreads and eat the original form of the food in moderation.

"Made with              "

Many products claim that they are "made with fruit" or "made with whole grains." However, there is no set amount of the ingredient the food must contain to make this claim. It’s possible that it only has a tiny amount of fruit or whole grains. Look for "100%" to ensure the food contains only the ingredients you are searching for.


Hidden Sources of SodiumHidden Sources of Sodium


hidden sources of sodium

Sodium is an essential mineral that is important for muscle and nerve function, but too much may put you at risk for high blood pressure and heart disease. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that healthy adults consume fewer than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day so look out for the following hidden sources.

Canned foods

One cup of chicken broth can have as much as 860 milligrams of sodium. Some canned green beans contain 390 milligrams per half cup. When you use these products in recipes that call for even more salt, the sodium content in your meal can get out of control. Always look for canned foods with “low sodium” or “unsalted” on the label.


From scalloped potato kits to pancake mixes, these products serve as shortcuts to save time in the kitchen, but it may not be worth it. Flavorings and preservatives add excess amounts of sodium to these packaged foods. Some baking mixes contain 410 milligrams per serving. Check labels closely before you decide to save time cooking with these products.

Poultry, Fish, and Seafood

Chicken and fish can be a healthy choice, but don’t ignore the nutrition label just because they are fresh foods. Some poultry is injected with sodium and some fish and seafood are washed in high-sodium baths to improve flavor, texture, and appearance. Injected poultry can have five to eight times more sodium than untreated poultry. Look for labels stating that there is no added salt or sodium.

Salad Dressings

A salad full of vegetables, healthy fats and lean protein can quickly be ruined by pouring on a high-sodium salad dressing. Two tablespoons of ranch dressing contains as much as 260 milligrams. Trade bottled dressings for olive oils, flavored vinegars, and citrus juice. You can also try mixing up your own low-sodium salad dressing at home. (See 5 Low-sodium Salad Dressing Ideas.)


When you use bread, lunch meat, and cheese to build a sandwich, you are combining three of the worst culprits for hidden sodium. Turkey sandwiches from popular fast food restaurants can contain 800 to 1400 milligrams! By selecting low-sodium bread and topping it with homemade vegetables, roasted chicken or hummus, you can drastically reduce the sodium in your meal.


9 Plant Nutrients that Improve Health9 Plant Nutrients that Improve Health


Plant Nutrients that Improve Health

Plant-based foods are full of complex carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, but they also offer natural chemicals called phytonutrients that improve health. While these plant nutrients are not essential for normal body function, they are powerful in disease prevention – making plant foods an important part of a nutritious diet. Enjoying a variety of foods will help you maximize your intake of these phytonutrients.

Ellagic Acid

How it helps: A disease fighting phytonutrient. Research shows that ellagic acid may promote the death of cancer cells.

What to eat: Blueberries, cranberries, strawberries, raspberries, pomegranates, pecans, and walnuts


How it helps: These anti-inflammatory compounds may help reduce the pain and inflammation caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

What to eat: Ginger root


How they help: Glucosinolates breakdown into active compounds when vegetables are chopped or chewed. These compounds may fight cancer by preventing DNA damage from carcinogens or the creation of cancer cells.

What to eat: Arugula, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, and radishes


How it helps: This flavonoid has been found to reduce the inflammation associated with chronic disease reducing risks for cancer.

What to eat: Citrus fruits


How it helps: This phytonutrient has been found to reduce the risk for chronic disease by inhibiting the growth of cancer cells.

What to eat: Broccoli, beans, endive, grapes, kale, leeks, strawberries, and tomatoes


How it helps: Some studies suggest that lycopene can reduce the risk of cancer by blocking the growth of cancer cells. It is also associated with a reduced risk for heart disease and age-related vision problems.

What to eat: Tomatoes, watermelon, pink grapefruit, guava, and papaya

Organosulfur Compounds

How they help: These compounds may protect against gastric and colorectal cancer. They may also reduce the the inflammation that is associated with cardiovascular disease.

What to eat: Chives, garlic, leeks, onions, and shallots


How it helps: Research shows that this flavonol may reduce the risk for asthma, cancer and heart disease.

What to eat: Apples, berries, grapes, and onions


How it helps: This antioxidant has been linked to the prevention of blood vessel damage, reduced LDL (bad) cholesterol, and reduced risk for cancer.

What to eat: Blueberries, cranberries, red grapes, peanuts, and pistachios


Eat better. Feel better. MyFoodDiary Categories Exercise
Weight Loss
Follow Us on the Web

A Healthier You Starts Today

Sign Up