The sunshine vitamin, a.k.a. vitamin D, is so-called because humans were meant to get what we need of it from the sun. Unfortunately, if you live north of the 37th parallel (essentially, north of Los Angeles), there’s not much vitamin D to be had from November to March.
Since vitamin D is important for preventing osteoporosis, heart disease, strokes, high blood pressure, cancer and Alzheimer’s disease (and rickets in children) and may actually slow the aging process, many of the denizens of parallels 38 through 90 (everyone living from north of LA to the North Pole) might need to supplement their vitamin D intake nutritionally.
While there aren’t many foods that contain vitamin D, there are a few you should be extra sure to include in your diet from late fall to the beginning of spring. Fatty fishes and seafood, mushrooms, eggs, some meats and fortified foods such as dairy and OJ should make frequent appearances on your cold-weather menu.
A quick word of caution: While most people in these areas (or even people closer to the equator who don’t get much sun) do need more vitamin D during these months, you should certainly consult a doctor about your personal vitamin D levels. Just have your doc do a blood test, which will tell you if you’re deficient, doing just fine or if you’re even getting more than you actually need (which is rare, but can be very dangerous, as it can negatively impact kidney function, heart function and even lead to very serious conditions like strokes, heart disease and dementia).
That’s why we don’t recommend you take your vitamin D in the form of a pill, which can build up in your body if you’re getting too much, especially if you take it in conjunction with a diet already high in sunshine vitamin-rich foods. The average person needs about 600 international units of vitamin D per day, though your doctor might recommend upping or lowering it if you’re levels are off.
But since most of us will need some source of vitamin D, we rounded up some vitamin D-licious recipes to add to your meal rotation. From carrot cake oatmeal breakfasts to cozy lunches of seafood chowder to dinners of orange-glazed salmon and even some weekend munchables for your weekly indoor (or not) tailgate, you can boost your vitamin D levels any time of day on any occasion.
Note: All nutrition information courtesy of the USDA or another qualified source. The IUs given are approximate. All vitamin D contents are per serving of that ingredient, not per recipe, unless otherwise noted.
Honey-garlic butter shrimp in coconut milk
Enjoy the playful flavors of this Belize-inspired dish featuring butter (9 IU per serving of vitamin D) and shrimp (152 IU per serving). If you make it with enriched coconut milk, you can add even more, depending on how much the brand you choose has. While it doesn't contain vitamin D, don't skip out on the rice. You'll want to soak up every drop of this unctuous sauce in which pungent garlic is foiled by honey's floral sweetness.
Half Baked Harvest
Wild mushroom mezzaluna with garlic-butter sauce
Mezzaluna is a filled pasta similar to ravioli, and in this dish, it's stuffed with a D-rich mixture made with earthy shiitake (about 5 IU per ounce) and cremini mushrooms (about 2 IU per ounce); buttery, creamy mascarpone (though you can get an additional 10-ish IU if you swap it for whole-milk ricotta, which has a similarly mild flavor if not texture); salty goat cheese and Parmesan (6 IU per ounce each); and the robust flavors of garlic, thyme and shallot. Plate it up by drizzling it with a piquant sauce of garlic-butter and peppery arugula, and you're all set for a romantic date-night dinner.
Spoon Fork Bacon
Get a little vitamin D for brunch with this classic rösti, a Swiss potato fritter. Made with butter and topped with tangy sour cream (2 IU per serving), you'd think that's where the decadence would stop. But a spoonful of caviar for a briny punch doesn't just up the fancy factor, it provides an additional 19 IU per serving.
A Cozy Kitchen
Maple-glazed baked salmon
With a whopping 815 IU of D per serving, salmon is a sunshine vitamin powerhouse in its own right. In this glazed and baked recipe, salmon gets a sweet kick from a maple-orange juice glaze (which you can use to add even more vitamin D if you buy fortified OJ). The Brussels sprouts are roasted to reduce their bitterness and pomegranate arils add a slightly tart kick for contrast.
Half Baked Harvest
Brats with beer queso
Put on your Romo jersey, grill up some bratwurst (37 IU) and nestle it in a soft pretzel bun. Then drizzle it with garlic- and cayenne-spiced beer cheese made with evaporated milk (24 IU per ounce) and cheddar cheese (7 IU per ounce) and top it with thinly sliced fresh jalapeños for a little spice and grassy contrast.
Foxes Love Lemons
Walnut-crusted pork tenderloin with apple cider gravy
If you're looking for a dose of vitamin D for a dinner party or holiday meal, look no further than pork tenderloin. With 91 IU per 3-ounce serving, it's a festive and party-appropriate way to get your sunshine vitamin fix. This walnut-crusted recipe plays up the difference in texture between the tenderness of the loin and the crunch of the crust. But the flavors are all traditional, with fresh thyme and sage, a hint of clove and an apple-infused gravy.
Host the Toast
Smoked salmon & cream cheese pastries
Get your snack on the vitamin D-boosting way when you top flaky puff pastry with cream cheese (4 IU per tablespoon). The mild, slightly acidic flavor of the cream cheese pairs perfectly with the subtle flavor of thinly sliced smoked salmon (116 IU per cubic inch). Top it with grassy, herbaceous garnishes like chives and dill.
Gimme Some Oven
Overnight carrot cake oatmeal
How about a piping-hot bowl of dessert for breakfast (or breakfast for dinner that's also dessert)? Fortified cereals like oatmeal (about 40 IU per serving depending on brand) are a great way to get your daily D at breakfast. While the half-and-half it uses does have 1 IU per tablespoon, you can make this overnight carrot cake oatmeal with vitamin D milk instead of water for an additional 2 IU per cup (and extra calcium to boot).
And if the idea of carrot cake doesn't get your motor running, try this apple and cinnamon baked oatmeal instead.
Foxes Love Lemons
Creamy seafood chowder
This comforting and flavorful New England-inspired seafood chowder is packed to the gills with vitamin D superstars. In addition to milk and butter, which each contribute some, this chowder has D-rich shrimp, cod (31 IU per 3-ounce serving), clams and mussels (2.7 IU per pound each). If you make it as recommended with seafood stock, you're adding even more.
Spoon Fork Bacon
Southern eggs Benedict
A single egg yolk contains a whopping 37 IU of the sunshine vitamin, and it makes an appearance in the poached eggs and hollandaise sauce in this Southern spin on eggs Benedict (the hollandaise sauce also gets a little extra D punch from the butter in the recipe). Treat your parents or in-laws to a Southern-style brunch by topping buttermilk biscuits with pulled pork (46 IU per 3-ounce serving) and a runny egg, then drizzling on a cayenne-spiced hollandaise sauce. (And no, the paradox that the Texans who'd most likely enjoy this dish on the regular still get plenty of vitamin D this time of year isn't lost on us.)
Spicy Southern Kitchen
Winter citrus salmon
D-packed salmon makes another appearance with this winter citrus salmon. Serve it family-style at your next girls' night and enjoy the flaky fish complemented by the berry overtones of the blood orange. Each pal gets their own ramekin of herbaceous melted butter and a side of blood orange-cara cara orange salsa spiked with jalapeños to give it a surprising kick. Serve it up with a side of wild mushroom risotto (next up) to make it a vitamin D party.
How Sweet Eats
Wild mushroom risotto
Your favorite vitamin D-bearing fungi are back and better than ever in this offering from Delish Knowledge. Your favorite wild mushrooms are joined by onions, carrot, garlic and thyme to create a creamy risotto that makes a great companion to fancy entrées and simple mains alike.
This Creole oyster stew is loaded with oysters (2 IU per cup) and other vitamin D-containing ingredients, like milk, half-and-half, butter, mushrooms and sharp cheddar. For best results, choose a high-quality, complex, tangy cheddar to stand up to the fresh-sea taste of the oysters and the spicy Creole seasoning.
Spicy Southern Kitchen
Spicy tuna roll burger
Sure, you could just eat actual tuna rolls, but sometimes you just need more sustenance than that. The sushi-grade tuna in this burger has about 93 IU of vitamin D per patty. Infused with umami from soy sauce and a mild nuttiness from sesame oil, the real sushi-like essence comes from swipe of wasabi. But the flavor doesn't stop there. A schmear of Sriracha mayo adds even more spice, but fear not. The heat is quenched by fresh lettuce and tomatoes and creamy, buttery avocado slices
Host the Toast
Creamy seafood enchiladas
If you're noticing lots of seafood on this list, there's a reason for that — the big D. Shrimp may seem a bit mild for use in a Tex-Mex dish, but it works beautifully with the dairy-based (also lot's of D) sauce and creamy Monterey Jack cheese (29 IU per cup), and a load of lively, citrusy cilantro balances out the smoky cumin and chili powder. There's just enough jalapeño to add a bite (similar to what you'd get with a good cocktail sauce), and the whole thing is topped with your choice of queso fresco or cotija cheese, which are both creamy, salty and crumbly Mexican cheeses.
Cooking with Curls
New England baked haddock
This simple recipe is great for teaching kids to cook (and getting your vitamin D fix while you're at it). Haddock (35 IU per fillet) soaks up the melted butter used to grease the baking sheet, while the rest of the butter mixes with the breadcrumbs to create a crispy top crust for a little variation in texture. Since haddock is so flaky, cooking it on a sheet pan insures it stays together until you're ready to eat, at which point you can use a large spatula to transfer the whole fillet to a plate (which is why it's such a great teaching dish — there's nothing more frustrating for beginning cooks than having their culinary creations fall apart before dinnertime).
Squeeze fresh lemon juice over it liberally just before you eat to highlight the mild, slightly sweet fish. To make the night's dinner extra easy, toss some trimmed and halved Brussels sprouts and garlic cloves in a small amount of olive oil seasoned with salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and lemon juice and pop those on the pan next to the fish to roast at the same time.
Bowl of Delicious