Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that our body synthesizes from the sun and is activated in the liver and kidneys to its active form 1,25-dihydroxy vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for bone health and regulates calcium absorption from the food we consume. Vitamin D also plays an integral role in supporting optimal immune function.
Since vitamin D and calcium are necessary for bone growth and remodeling, ensuring one receives an adequate dosage of these nutrients may be particularly essential if you are currently undergoing or have undergone cancer treatment. Research suggests breast cancer and prostate cancer therapies may cause higher rates of CTIBL, or cancer treatment-induced bone loss. Considering this, it is important sufficient levels of vitamin D are maintained if you are in treatment.
Though the recommended daily allowance for vitamin D is 600 international units (IU) for adults under the age of 70 and 800 IU for adults over 70, it is important to consult with your doctor and/or dietitian about the vitamin D dosage appropriate for you, and whether you should take vitamin D supplements at all.
Aside from obtaining vitamin D from the sun and/or in supplemental form, there are a few whole foods you can incorporate into your diet to increase your vitamin D intake. Freshwater cold fish constitutes one of the best food sources of vitamin D. Three ounces of salmon contain 447 IU, three ounces of canned tuna contains 154 IU, and canned sardines bring 46 IU per 2 fillets to the table. This may not seem like good news to many of you reading this, who cannot stomach the idea of eating anything fishy during chemo.
However, being on a bland diet need not necessarily exclude fish, which are rather important sources of other nutrients beyond vitamin D.
Cook for Your Life has many fish recipes to suit your needs if you are on a bland diet, including recipes for Soy Poached Salmon, Salmon al Cartoccio, and Salad Nicoise with Grilled Tuna. In fact, our recipe for Salad Niçoise may be called a vitamin D jackpot, as it includes hard-boiled eggs which each offer about 41 IU of the nutrient in addition to the tuna.
Simply hard-boiling eggs is actually an easy way to add small amounts of vitamin D to your diet here and there. If you’re feeling up for something fancy and minimal effort, try our recipe for Eggs Baked in Tomatoes or Spinach Ricotta Scrambled Eggs.
Lastly, there are foods fortified with vitamin D, including milk, which can contain approximately 120 IU per 1 cup. Importantly, organic milk and some alternative milk, like almond milk, can be fortified with vitamin D, so look to add these fortified foods in your diet according to your preferences.
Though getting an adequate amount of vitamin D may seem daunting, as few foods contain high levels of the nutrient. Trying new recipes with fish, adding eggs to your meals, or trying your morning coffee with a splash of vitamin D fortified milk are all simple ways to increase your intake without it feeling like a chore.