7 Healthy Foods That Are High in Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an important nutrient for immune health and disease prevention. Most people get adequate vitamin D from the food they eat and spending time in the sun.
Vitamin D deficiency is common, however, especially among older adults and people with restrictive diets. This is partly because only a few foods naturally contain vitamin D. So if you want to increase the amount of vitamin D in your diet, you should be aware of the foods that can help boost your levels.
Research suggests that approximately 35 percent of adults in the United States are deficient in Vitamin D.
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Which foods are high in vitamin D?
There are relatively few foods that naturally contain vitamin D. But, because vitamin D is such an important part of health, many American food manufacturers add it to various products during the production process. These are often labeled as “vitamin D fortified.”
Foods that are high in vitamin D (or commonly fortified with it) include:
- Fatty fish such as salmon, trout, and tuna
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
- Cod liver oil
- Cow’s milk and yogurt (fortified)
- Plant-based beverages such as almond, soy, or oat milk (fortified)
- Orange juice (fortified)
- Breakfast cereals (fortified)
- Tofu (fortified)
You may be surprised to see mushrooms on the list. According to researchers, mushrooms might be the only natural source of vitamin D that is not an animal product. But it is important to note that not all types of mushrooms are a good source of vitamin D. And the amount they contain is affected by their exposure to sunlight. So it is hard to know for sure how much vitamin D you are getting from mushrooms.
What are the Best Sources of Vitamin D in Food?
While many foods have little to no vitamin D naturally, a few do. And other commonly-consumed products are fortified to become vitamin D-rich foods since so many Americans fall short. Add these foods that contain vitamin D to your next grocery shopping list.
1. Canned Tuna and Sardines
Vitamin D per 3 ounces, drained: 40-46 IU (1.0-1.2 mcg)
Rachel Fine, R.D., a registered dietitian and owner of the nutrition counseling firm To The Pointe Nutrition in New York City, recommends stocking up on a healthy supply of canned fish, including tuna and sardines. They're almost always less expensive than fresh fish and have a far longer shelf life. (Then crack open a can or two to use in these 19 canned fish recipes.)
"Canned light tuna has a good amount of vitamin D, but canned albacore tuna and canned sardines also offer a solid dose," Fine says.
2. Cod Liver Oil
Vitamin D per 1 tablespoon: 1,360 IU (34 mcg)
Wondering how to get vitamin D fast? "Cod liver oil contains the highest amount of vitamin D out of all of these sources," Hyman says.
In fact, about ½ Tbsp. will help you reach your daily vitamin D needs. If you find the taste off-putting to take alone, try stirring it into a flavorful juice or blending it into a smoothie recipe.
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Vitamin D per whole large egg: 44 IU (1.1 mcg)
Don't throw out the yolk! This is where the majority of the vitamin D lives, Hyman says.
"Eggs are a convenient way to get vitamin D," says Fine. "They're popular in many breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert recipes. [Including these awesome egg casseroles!] Since the vitamin D in an egg comes from its yolk, it's important to use the whole egg, not just the whites. One yolk will give you about 40 I.U.s."
4. Fortified Milks, Cereals, and Juices
Vitamin D per serving: ranges from about 80 IU (2.0 mcg) to 120 IU (2.9 mcg)
If you're not fond of the naturally good sources of vitamin D listed above, consider milk or nondairy milk alternatives, juices, or cereals with vitamin D added. Foods like a2 Milk ($4, Target) and Multi-Grain Cheerios ($5, Target) offer at least 10% of your daily vitamin D thanks to fortification.
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Vitamin D per 3 ounces, cooked: 570 IU (14.2 mcg)
Excellent seared, grilled, or roasted, "salmon is one of the only food sources that have a naturally-occurring high vitamin D content. On average, 3 ounces of salmon has about 75% of the recommended dietary intake," Smith says. "I recommend it to clients because not only does it have vitamin D, but it also is a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids." (Get your Rx in these 30-minute salmon recipes.)
Vitamin D per 3 ounces, cooked: 645 IU (16.2 mcg)
One serving of this affordable and healthy fish option packs enough vitamin D to reach your daily quota at just one meal. Seek out American farm-raised rainbow trout for the most sustainable variety. Try it in these Lemon and Herb Grilled Trout Sandwiches or this Grilled Trout Stuffed with Lemon and Herbs.
7. White Mushrooms
Vitamin D per ½ cup, exposed to UV light: 366 IU (9.2 mcg)
One of the best vitamin D foods for vegetarians and vegans, mushrooms offer the biggest benefits, but only when grown al fresco.
"Just like humans, mushrooms have the capacity to produce vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet light. Mushrooms, however, are usually grown in the dark and don't contain the vitamin. Specific brands, however, are grown in ultraviolet light to spur vitamin D production," Fine says.
Peek at the package to see if it mentions mushroom vitamin D levels or growing conditions before counting mushrooms toward your D levels for the day. Now that you know where to get your vitamin D and why it's important, you can makeover your menu to help cover your wellness bases, bolster your bones, and support your immune system.
Many people lack vitamin D, which is an essential nutrient. Vitamin D-rich sources should be included in our daily diet to prevent deficiency. You can increase your daily Vitamin D intake by adding mushrooms to your omelet or adding grilled salmon to any of your meals.
Remember, this blog provides general information and should not replace professional medical advice. As mentioned, you may need a vitamin D supplement if you don’t eat foods that contain vitamin D or if you have a deficiency. Your healthcare provider may recommend supplements depending on your vitamin D levels. It will take a few weeks or a month for vitamin D levels to rise. It's also advisable to seek professional help from your healthcare provider or call or visit our Nearest Emergency Room for medical help. We have board-certified physicians, nurses and staff to help you recover and give appropriate treatment and medical advice.
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