It’s important to get enough vitamin D every day, as it is an essential vitamin needed for immune system health and, as indicated by research, may help prevent heart disease, depression, diabetes and certain types of cancer.
Vitamin D is often referred to as “the sunshine vitamin” because the sun is one of its best sources — but there are other ways to get your daily dose if you can't spend enough time outside. There aren’t many natural foods that contain vitamin D, but there is one substance that can give you more than enough of your daily recommended dose in just a small amount: cod liver oil.
Cod liver oil has been used as a supplement for hundreds of years for many reasons. In addition to protection from the cold, northern Europeans used it because they believed it would provide relief for aching joints, rheumatism and stiff muscles. Scientists in the early 20th century found that, thanks to vitamin D, cod liver oil was effective in treating or preventing rickets, leading to the common practice of mothers giving it to their children.
Just 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil provides 1,360 international units (IUs), or 34 micrograms, of vitamin D — 170% of your daily value. The average healthy adult needs 600 IUs of vitamin D, while people over 70 typically need about 800 IUs. There is such a thing as taking too much vitamin D, so it’s important to get a blood test and ask your doctor just what your levels are and how much you may need. If you’re not sure you can stomach the cod liver oil, however, there are plenty of other ways to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D.