Vitamin D is essential for bone growth and maintenance, and it might help reduce the risk of various diseases. But most people don't consume anywhere near the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of the vitamin from food sources, a problem that might be partially remedied by bumping up intake of vitamin D-fortified cereal and milk, according to a new study in the Journal of Food Science.
In the study, researchers analyzed dietary intake data from 7,837 adults and children in the U.S. and 4,025 in Canada. In particular, they looked at three things: total intake of vitamin D from food; the percent contribution of various foods to overall vitamin D intake; and the relationship between cereal and breakfast consumption habits and vitamin D intake. (Full disclosure: The study was funded by cereal giant General Mills.)
Fewer than 2 percent of participants got enough vitamin D from food to meet the recommended daily allowance, which was raised in 2010 from 200 international units, or IU, to 600 IU a day. On average, intakes ranged from 152 to 220 IU a day, mostly from milk, meat, and fish. In the U.S., cereal--which is often fortified with vitamin D--also ranked among the top food sources. And in both countries, as the frequency of cereal consumption and breakfast consumption went up, so did overall vitamin D intake.
That led the authors to conclude that increasing breakfast and cereal consumption might be a useful way to increase dietary vitamin D intake—in part because both cereal and breakfast go hand-in-hand with milk, which is also typically fortified with vitamin D. Even then, many people might still need a multivitamin or other supplement to meet the new, higher RDA. But it's a good idea to try to get as much vitamin D from food as you can, since the top food sources of that vitamin tend to have other essential nutrients as well. Not sure which cereal to feed your kids or yourself? See our top picks for kids' cereal and high-fiber cereal.
Top Food Sources Contributing to Vitamin D Intake and the Association of Ready-to-Eat Cereal and Breakfast Consumption Habits to Vitamin D Intake in Canadians and United States Americans (Journal of Food Science)