Are Nuts & Seeds High in Vitamin D?

In many ways nuts and seeds are miracle foods. They provide quality non-meat protein and, as recent research points out, contribute to heart health with “healthy fats” and fatty acids. Sunflower seeds, almonds and hazelnuts or filberts are the richest sources of vitamin E in the protein food group, or meat and beans. But vitamin D will have to be obtained elsewhere, because nuts and seeds don’t have any.


Heart-healthy high-protein foods with “good” monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats and very little saturated fat can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, promote weight loss and reduce the risk of diabetes. They have no cholesterol and minuscule amounts of salt, except for salted types. Beyond protein, healthy fats and vitamin E, nutrients associated with nuts include magnesium, manganese, fiber, zinc and phosphorus. Just 1 oz. of walnuts, or 14 walnut halves, provide most of the omega-3 fatty acids needed. One-third cup of nuts or seeds qualifies as one serving of meat protein.


A fat-soluble vitamin naturally present in very few foods, vitamin D routinely is added to milk and some juice products and can be taken as a dietary supplement. Vitamin D also can be produced through routine but slight exposure to the ultraviolet rays in sunlight. Vitamin D from all those sources is biologically inert or inactive and is transformed into usable forms in the liver and kidneys. Active vitamin D promotes calcium absorption and helps maintain adequate serum calcium and phosphate concentrations for strong bones and teeth.


Fatty fish — salmon, mackerel and tuna — and fish oils including cod liver oil are among the best sources in nature for vitamin D. Most Americans get their vitamin D from fortified milk, infant formula and other food products, though butter, cheese and ice cream generally aren’t fortified. Small amounts of vitamin D can be obtained from beef liver, cheese, egg yolks and some mushrooms. Supplements are the other main dietary source. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends supplements in various situations. In 2010 the dietary recommendation for children and adolescents was increased from 200 IU (International Units) per day to 600 IU per day.


Sun exposure to synthesize vitamin D is tricky territory. To prevent skin cancer, the skin must be protected from overexposure to the same ultraviolet (UV) rays. The usual suggestion is that five to 30 minutes of sun exposure to the face, arms, legs or back — without sunscreen — between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. at least twice weekly will result in sufficient vitamin D synthesis. Research is spotty, but even those who use sunscreens of up to SPF 8 and those living in far northern latitudes may synthesize adequate vitamin D in the spring, summer and fall, needing to supplement with fish oil or other sources only in the winter.

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