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

Fish liver oil, meat and seafood are some of the foods with the highest amount of vitamin D. However, even though vitamin D can be obtained from foods of animal sources, the main way this vitamin is produced is through sun exposure. It is therefore important that the skin be exposed to the sun 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 helps calcium to be better absorbed in the intestines, it helps to strengthen bones and teeth, and it prevents diseases like rickets, osteoporosis, cancer, heart problems, diabetes and high blood pressure.

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

List of foods high in vitamin D

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

Vitamin D per 100 grams of food
Cod liver oil252 mcg
Salmon oil100 mcg
Tin 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

If there is not enough sun exposure for the production of the recommended daily amount of vitamin D, it is important that this be obtained through food or vitamin supplements. In children over 1 year old and healthy adults, the daily recommended amount is 15 mcg of vitamin D, while older people should consume 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 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 shall need to get vitamin D through sun exposure or through supplements recommended by a doctor or nutritionist.

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. This can happen to people who have undergone bariatric surgery, for instance. 

If there is serious vitamin D deficiency in children this will lead to rickets and if adults have the same vitamin deficiency this will lead to osteomalacia. If this happens, a test will have to be carried out to see how much vitamin D is in the blood - 25-hydroxyvitamin D -  in order to determine the level of deficiency. 

Generally speaking, vitamin D supplements come with calcium as vitamin D is fundamental for the absorption of calcium in the body. These supplements will treat a whole range of changes in bone metabolism, such as osteoporosis.

These supplements should be taken under the guidance of a professional, and they may be recommended by a doctor or by a nutritionist either in capsules or in drops. 

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  • COZZOLINO Silvia. Biodisponibilidade de nutrientes. 4º. Brasil: Manole Ltda, 2012. 343-361.
  • COMPOSIÇÃO DE ALIMENTOS. Plataforma Portuguesa de Informação Alimentar. Available on: <http://portfir.insa.pt/>. Access in 16 Apr 2019
  • MAEDA, Sergio S. et al. Recomendações da Sociedade Brasileira de Endocrinologia e Metabologia (SBEM) para o diagnóstico e tratamento da hipovitaminose D. Arq Bras Endocrinol Metab. Vol.58(5). 411-433, 2014
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