By: Miriam Ambrosino
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin necessary for a host of bodily processes such as regulating muscle health and immune function. It is most commonly known for its essential role in facilitating calcium absorption and maintaining bone health.
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 treatment-induced bone loss (2018). Considering this, it is important that you maintain sufficient levels of vitamin D 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 dietician about the vitamin D dosage appropriate for you and whether you should take vitamin D supplements at all.
Aside from supplements, there are a few whole foods you can incorporate into your diet to increase your vitamin D intake. Fish constitutes one of the best food sources of vitamin D. Three ounces of salmon contain 447 IU, three oz of canned tuna contain 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. Our website has several recipes for fish that will suit your needs if you are on a bland diet, including our 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, which requires minimal effort, try our recipe for Eggs baked in Tomatoes or Spinach Ricotta Scrambled Eggs to mix things up a bit, … no pun intended.
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 milks, 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, the trick of the trade is to make small changes. 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.