For many living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), vitamin D levels are checked yearly by your healthcare team. Why? Research has shown that lower amounts of vitamin D have been linked to disease activity in RA. Luckily, vitamin D is one of the nutrients your body needs that can be accessed in three easy ways.
According to the Vitamin D Council, the two best ways of meeting your vitamin D daily requirement is through supplementation and direct sunlight. Vitamin D supplements can be easily purchased at any health food store in pill or liquid form. Always check with your rheumatologist on the dosage needed for your body.
Getting outdoors and soaking up some sunshine has the benefit of providing a necessary vitamin for your body, plus the added advantage of allowing you to step away from everything else, move those joints, and just enjoy some fresh air for a bit. Take a short walk, read a book in a sunny spot, or meditate on a park bench. The more skin you expose, the more vitamin D you absorb. Just be cautious not to allow your skin to burn.
Vitamin D is one of the nutrients your body needs that can be accessed by a variety of healthy foods — salmon, canned tuna and sardines, egg yolks, and vitamin D-fortified products, such as orange juice, soy, dairy, and cereal.
In my home, dinner meals are my responsibility. Years of living with RA have taught me to keep meals simple in preparation and clean up and make them as nutrient rich as possible. For that reason, I love that vitamin D foods easily pair with other foods that may be good for reducing inflammation, such as olive oil, ginger, fiber found in fruits, vegetables, and grains, and even wine.
A favorite vitamin D food enjoyed by my family several times a month is salmon. It is easy to cook (fry, bake, or grill), refrigerates well, and offers a variety of left-over options. Here’s a quick meal I often put together for my family of four.
Salmon and veggies
- 4 salmon fillets
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Variety of vegetables (broccoli, red and green peppers, onion, garlic, spinach, mushrooms)
- Soy Sauce (optional)
What to do:
- Brush fillets with oil. Salt and pepper to taste.
- Bake in toaster oven for 15-20 minutes on 375 degrees.
- While salmon is cooking, cook rice according to package directions.
- Cut vegetables and sauté. Add salt, pepper, and any additional seasonings that match your taste buds.
- Add soy sauce if desired.
- That’s it! Your meal is complete.
The great thing about vitamin D foods is how easy they are to prepare, which makes them easy to make when you have less energy because of RA. I cook extra salmon for future meals or easy-to-prepare snacks. It is a great addition to salads (canned tuna also works) and makes a quick breakfast when added to a cream cheese bagel. Until I was an adult, I had never tried sardines — another easy to prepare vitamin D food. It comes ready-to-eat in cans and while they have a strong scent, the taste is rather mild and when matched with crackers, makes a great snack or light lunch. I boil eggs many times a week, eating a few while they are still warm and then placing the rest in the refrigerator for snacks or to add to a salad or tuna sandwich. I am always thinking of ways to reduce my workload and save energy.
If a morning shake is more your style, Vitamix offers six recipes for shakes that contain vitamin D from dairy, soy, and tofu products. One that looks rather yummy is the Emerald Smoothie, which includes yogurt, pineapple, celery, spinach, ice cubes, and a bit of sweetener.
Let’s get going on improving our vitamin D levels! RA has a way of taking a lot from your body, but you have the ability to choose foods that replenish what is missing. Get a little crazy experimenting with vitamin D foods. Talk to your doctor about whether or not supplementation is needed and in what dosage, and don’t forget to show a little skin and let Mr. Sunshine bathe you with vitamins. Do your body good!