16 Foods High In Vitamin D (& When To Use Supplements)

Clinical review: Tatiana Zanin
Registered Dietitian
April 2022

Fish liver oil, meat and seafood are foods with some of the highest amounts of vitamin D. However, even though vitamin D can be obtained from animal sources, the main way this vitamin is produced is through sun exposure. It is therefore important to have some sun exposure for at least 15 minutes every day, between 10 a.m. and 12 p.m., and 3 p.m. and 4.30 p.m.  

Vitamin D promotes the absorption of calcium in the intestines, which is important for strengthening the bones and teeth. Adequate levels of vitamin D are also important to prevent illnesses like rickets, osteoporosis, cancer, cardiac problems, diabetes and hypertension. 

Food that is naturally high in vitamin D is usually animal-based, although there are other foods that can be fortified with vitamin D, like breakfast cereal. 

List of foods high in vitamin D

The following table indicates the amount of vitamin D per 100 grams of food:

Vitamin D SourcesAmount in 100 g
Cod liver oil252 mcg
Salmon oil100 mcg
Canned sardines in olive-oil40 mcg
Fresh herring23,5 mcg
Smoked salmon20 mcg
Oysters8 mcg
Salmon5 mcg
Fortified milk2,45 mcg
Chicken liver2 mcg
Butter1,53 mcg
Boiled egg1,3 mcg
Beef liver1,1 mcg
Cheddar cheese0,32 mcg
Meat (chicken, turkey and pork) and innards in general0,3 mcg
Beef0,18 mcg
Yogurt0,04 mcg

Vitamin D intake through food is especially important if there is not enough sun exposure for the production of the recommended daily amount of vitamin D. Children over 1 year old and healthy adults should obtain at least 15 mcg of vitamin D per day, while older people should have 20 mcg per day.

How can vegetarians get vitamin D

Vitamin D is present in animal foods and in some fortified products. However, it is not naturally found in foods of plant origin like fruits, leafy greens and grains, such as rice, wheat, oats and quinoa.

As such, strict vegetarians or vegans that do not consume eggs, milk or dairy of any kind are advised to obtain vitamin D through sun exposure or through supplements recommended by a doctor or registered dietitian.

When to take vitamin D supplements

Vitamin D supplements should be taken when vitamin D levels in the blood are below normal, which can happen when a person has little sun exposure or when a person’s body undergoes changes in the fat absorption process (e.g. following bariatric surgery). 

A serious vitamin D deficiency in can lead to rickets in children or osteomalacia in adults. These illnesses are confirmed through blood tests that checks the vitamin D levels in the blood, also known as 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Learn more about symptoms of vitamin D deficiency

Generally, vitamin D supplements come with calcium as vitamin D is fundamental for the absorption of calcium in the body. These supplements are usually recommended for people with a history of bone abnormalities, like osteoporosis.

Supplementation should be recommended and monitored by a health care professional. 

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Atualizado por Tua Saude editing team, em April de 2022. Clinical review por Tatiana Zanin - Registered Dietitian, em April de 2022.

References

  • UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. Food Data Central: Fish, trout, mixed species, raw. Available on: <https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/175153/nutrients>. Access in 28 Feb 2022
  • UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE. Food Data Central: Soy milk, unsweetened, plain, shelf stable. Available on: <https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1999630/nutrients>. Access in 28 Feb 2022
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  • BELTSVILLE HUMAN NUTRITION RESEARCH CENTER. Vitamin D in Mushrooms. Available on: <https://www.ars.usda.gov/ARSUserFiles/80400525/Articles/AICR09_Mushroom_VitD.pdf>. Access in 28 Feb 2022
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Clinical review:
Tatiana Zanin
Registered Dietitian
Graduated in Clinical Nutrition in 2001 and has a Master’s in Clinical Nutrition. Licensed to practice under the CRN-3 in Brazil and the ON in Portugal