Vitamin D is an essential nutrient and is the only one that is produced by the human body when it is exposed to sunlight.
However, up to half of the world’s population may not be getting the right amount of exposure to sunlight, and 40% of people living in the U.S. have a vitamin Disease deficiency.
This may be because people spend most of their time indoors, put on sunblock outside, and feed on a Western diet that is low in good sources of vitamin D.
The recommended daily value (DV) of vitamin D is 800 IU (20 mcg) per day from foods.
For people who do not get enough sunlight, their intake of vitamin D should likely be around 1,000 IU. Here are 7 of the healthiest vitamin D food sources.
Table of Contents
- 1. Salmon
- 2. Herring and sardines
- 3. Cod liver oil
- 4. Canned tuna
- 5. Egg yolks
- 6. Mushrooms
- 7. Fortified foods
Salmon is one of the most famous fatty fish and serves as an excellent source of vitamin D.
Per the Food Composition Database of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), one serving of 3.5-ounce (100-gram) of farmed Atlantic salmon is packed with 526 IU of vitamin D, which is 66% of the DV
Whether the salmon is farmed or wild can make a huge difference.
On average, salmons that are caught in the wild pack 988 IU of vitamin D for every serving of 3.5-ounce (100-gram), or 124% of the DV. Some research has found even levels that are higher than the above in wild salmon — reaching up to 1,300 IU per serving.
However, salmon that are farmed contains only 25% of the above amount. Still, a single serving of farmed salmon gives about 32% of the DV or 250 IU of vitamin D
2. Herring and sardines
Herring is a fish that is eaten all over the world. It can be served smoked, raw, canned, or pickled. This small-sized fish is also one of the healthiest sources of vitamin D.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of Fresh Atlantic herring provides a total of 216 IU, which is 27% of the DV.
If you are not a fan of fresh fish, pickled herring, which is a tasty option, is also a great source of vitamin D, offering 14% of the DV or 112 IU for a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving.
However, one must be careful with pickled herring; they also contain an abundant amount of sodium, which many people consume in excess.
Canned sardines are also an excellent source of vitamin D. One can of sardine, which is (3.8 ounces), contains 22% of the DV or 177 IU.
Other types of fatty fish make great sources of good vitamin D. Mackerel and Halibut provide 384 IU and 360 IU of vitamin D respectively per half a fillet.
3. Cod liver oil
Cod liver oil is a commonly used supplement. If you can’t stand the taste or smell of fish or just don’t like fish, including a daily intake of cod liver oil to your lifestyle, can be vital in getting certain nutrients that are not available in other food sources.
It is a fantastic source of vitamin D — at around 448 IU per teaspoon (4.9 ml), cod liver oil clocks in at a massive 56% of the Daily Value. This supplement has been used for many years to treat and prevent vitamin D deficiency in kids.
Cod liver oil is also a fantastic source of vitamin A, with a daily value of 150% in just one teaspoon (4.9 ml). Nevertheless, vitamin A can be toxic to the body when taken in high amounts.
Therefore, be careful with cod liver oil, making sure not to consume too much of it.
Also, cod liver oil has high omega-3 fatty acids, which a lot of people are deficient in.
4. Canned tuna
Many people love to eat canned tuna because of its excellent flavor storage methods that are easy. It’s also usually more affordable than buying fresh tuna fish.
A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of Canned light tuna fish packs up to 268 IU of vitamin D, which is 34% of the DV. It also serves as a fantastic source of vitamin K and niacin.
Unfortunately, canned tuna has methylmercury, which is a toxin found in different types of fish. If there is a build-up of methylmercury in your body, it can trigger some serious health problems
However, some types of fish pose less risk than others. For example, light tuna is known to be a better choice than the white tuna fish — it’s considered less risky to eat up to 6 ounces (170 grams) of light tuna per week.
5. Egg yolks
People who do not eat fish for any reason at all should bear in mind that seafood is not the only way they can get vitamin D. Eating whole eggs serve as another beautiful source of the vitamin, as well as a healthy and nutritious food.
While most of Egg’s protein content is found in the egg white, the vitamins, fat, and minerals are mostly found in the yolk.
One egg yolk typically contains 37 IU of vitamin D or 5% of the DV.
Vitamin D levels in egg yolk much depend on the vitamin D content of chicken feed and sun exposure. When fed with the same feed, chickens that are pasture-raised and allows to roam outside in the sunlight lay eggs with vitamin D levels 3–4 times higher.
Additionally, eggs later by chickens that are fed with feed enriched with vitamin-D may have up to 6,000 IU of vitamin D in their yolk. That’s a massive seven times the DV. Levels of vitamin D levels in egg yolk is determined by sun exposure and the chicken feed vitamin D content.
Choosing eggs either from birds sold as high in vitamin D content or chickens raised outside can be a fantastic way to meet your daily requirements of this vitamin.
Apart from fortified foods, mushrooms are the only known plant source of vitamin D. Just like humans, mushrooms are capable of synthesizing this vitamin when they are exposed to UV light.
However, the vitamin D produced by mushrooms is different from the one provided by animals. Mushrooms produce vitamin D2, while animals make vitamin D3.
Though vitamin D2 helps is excellent and helps to raise vitamin D blood levels, it usually is not as effective as vitamin D3.
However, wild mushrooms are fantastic sources of vitamin D2. Some varieties of mushrooms pack up to 2,300 IU of vitamin D per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving — which is nearly three times the DV.
On the other hand, mushrooms that are commercially grown are usually grown in the dark and have very little D2 content.
However, specific brands of mushroom are treated with ultraviolet (UV light). Mushrooms like these can provide up to 130–450 IU of vitamin D2 in 3.5 ounces.
7. Fortified foods
Natural vitamin D sources are limited, especially if you are a vegetarian or do not like fish.
Fortunately, some sources of food that do not naturally contain vitamin D get fortified with this vital nutrient.
Cow’s milk, which is the most consumed type of milk, is naturally an excellent source of various nutrients, including phosphorus, calcium, and riboflavin.
In different countries around the world, processed cow’s milk is fortified with vitamin D. Raw cow’s milk usually contains about 115–130 IU, or about 15–22% of the DV per cup (237 ml) naturally.
Because vitamin D is almost exclusively found in animal products, vegans and vegetarians are at a very high risk of not getting enough of this nutrient.
For this reason, most plant-based milk substitutes like almond milk and soy milk are usually fortified with vitamin D and other sources of vitamins and minerals that are naturally found in cow’s milk.
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