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Diet & Nutrition, Health

10 Foods High In Vitamin D to Include In Your Diet

Written by Denise Hill
Denise shares about psychology and communication tips on Lifehack.
Rajeev Kurapati MD, MBA practices Hospital Medicine and also serves as the Medical Director of Integrative Oncology at a large healthcare organization in Kentucky.

Fact Checked. Our dedicated editorial team tirelessly evaluates every article we publish to ensure the information is factual, up-to-date and free of bias.

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Did you know that vitamin D deficiency is a global epidemic?[1] A billion people are estimated to be deficient in vitamin D, and 64% of Americans do not get enough vitamin D to keep all of their tissues functioning properly.[2]

While vitamin supplements are an option, it is also recommended that you include vitamin-rich foods in your diet. In this article, you can learn about the foods that are high in vitamin D and decide whether to include them in your diet.

But, before we get into the list of vitamin D-rich foods, you should know what vitamin D is.

What Is Vitamin D For?

Vitamin D, also known as “the sunshine vitamin,” is essential for our overall health and well-being. Most people associate vitamin D with sunlight because studies have shown that it is naturally produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that belongs to the vitamin D family, which also includes vitamins D-1, D-2, and D-3. It has the potential to affect up to 2,000 genes in the body.[3]

Vitamin D serves several functions. Perhaps the most important are calcium and phosphorus absorption regulation and normal immune system function. Getting enough vitamin D is important for normal bone and tooth growth and development, as well as improved resistance to certain diseases.

The National Institutes of Health,[4] along with Health and Human Services, has determined the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D is 600 IUs (15 mcg) for individuals between the ages of 13 and 70. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has set the recommended amount at 400 IUs which is slightly lower than other recommendations but still much higher than most people consume daily.


10 Foods High in Vitamin D

Eating vitamin D-rich foods is even more important today than it was years ago. Our modern, indoor lifestyle limits our exposure to vitamin D. Even those who spend a lot of time outside have insufficient levels of this important nutrient because of the necessity of wearing sunblock. Sunscreens do more than just protect against harmful UV rays; they also limit the amount of vitamin absorbed by the skin.

Due to the limited amount of sunlight we receive and the rarity of foods that are high in vitamin D, we should eat a diet full of foods that are high in vitamin D.

1. Cod Liver Oil

This is the holy grail of vitamin D. One tablespoon contains 1,360 IUs, which is more than twice the RDA. Cod liver oil is also a great anti-inflammatory agent and has properties that promote cardiovascular, hormonal, immune, reproductive and neurological health.[5]

2. Portabella Mushrooms

Mushrooms are a great substitute for meat and are an excellent complement to many dishes.[6]

Portabella mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light contain about 375 IUs per serving. When grilled, that number jumps to 493 IUs per serving.[7]

3. Oily Fish

Fatty fish, like tuna, trout, mackerel, and salmon, are rich in vitamin D.[8] This group’s vitamin D content ranges from 760 IUs down to 100 IUs per serving. The oily fish ranking the highest are swordfish, salmon, trout and then mackerel.


Besides being a vitamin D-rich food, fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids provide a plethora of health benefits – both physical and mental – and are considered a “superfood” among many nutrition experts.

4. Fish Roe (Caviar)

Besides being fortified with vitamin D (484 IUs per serving), caviar is a source of vitamins and minerals, including omega 3, which helps to promote a healthy nervous, circulatory and immune system.[9]

One serving of this expensive delicacy also has an adult’s daily requirement of vitamin B12. Other nutrients included are vitamins A, E, B6, iron, magnesium and selenium.[10]

5. Orange Juice (Fortified)

Orange fortified with vitamin D contains 137 IUs per eight ounce cup.[11] Fortified orange juice also comes packed with calcium and is an excellent source of vitamin C.[12]

6. Dairy Products

Naturally, milk and other dairy products do not contain high amounts of vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential in the process the body undergoes to absorb calcium. It is for this reason, foods that naturally contain calcium have been fortified with vitamin D.[13]

Dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt and margarine all have vitamin D added to enhance the potency of calcium.


7. Fortified Breakfast Cereal

Instant oatmeal rates the highest in this category when it comes to vitamin D content. Most brands come in around 342 IUs per serving.[14]

Traditional dry cereals are also great sources for packing in a large variety of vitamins and minerals in a single serving. When the cereal is combined with milk, the vitamin D content is further enhanced.[15]

8. Beef Liver

Beef liver is not only a pretty good source of vitamin D, but since it is a storage organ for many important nutrients (vitamins A, D, E, K, B12 and folic acid), and minerals such as copper and iron, it naturally transfers those vitamins to us when we consume it.[16]

Liver is an “organ meat,” and generally speaking, organ meats are between 10 and 100 times higher in nutrients than corresponding muscle meats.[17]

9. Eggs

Eggs are a convenient source of vitamin D. They’re used in a variety of breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert recipes. The yolk of an egg contains vitamin D. One large egg contains approximately 44 IUs of vitamin D.[18]

10. Dairy Alternatives

Those who are lactose intolerant or have dairy sensitivities may find it difficult to get their daily dose of vitamin D. Fortunately, dairy alternatives such as soy and almond milk, dairy-free cheese and yogurt are calcium and vitamin D fortified.


Maximizing the Amount of Vitamin D in Your Food

How we prepare and consume food vastly affects its nutritional benefits and can either heighten or completely nullify certain nutrients.[19]

When it comes to preparing foods to preserve their vitamin D content, it’s important to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Vitamin D is a very stable nutrient in foods. It will not be significantly damaged by most low-heat cooking techniques.
  2. Foods cooked in oil will lose some of their vitamin D content. Eggs, for example, when fried lose about 20% of their vitamin D, compared to only a 10% loss during the poaching process.
  3. The best way to preserve any food’s vitamin D content, based on information from various studies, is to avoid cooking food at higher heats and lengthy baking times.

Bottom Line

Vitamin D is vitally important for proper functioning of our bodies and aids in preserving our health. A conscious effort must be made daily to ensure your diet includes the appropriate amount of the sunshine vitamin.

In addition to consuming vitamin D-rich foods, you can consider taking vitamin D supplements too.

Featured photo credit: Towfiqu barbhuiya via unsplash.com


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