9 Healthy Foods That Are High in Vitamin D
Salmon is a popular fatty fish and also a great source of vitamin D.
According to nutrient databases, one 3.5-oz (100-gram) serving of salmon contains between 361 and 685 IU of vitamin D (5).
However, it is usually not specified whether the salmon was wild or farmed. This might not seem important, but it can make a big difference.
One study found that wild-caught salmon contains 988 IU of vitamin D per 3.5-oz (100-gram) serving, on average. That's 247% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI) (6).
Some studies have found even higher levels in wild salmon, ranging up to 1,300 IU per serving (7).
2. Herring and Sardines
Herring is a fish eaten around the world. It can be served raw, canned, smoked or pickled.
It's also one of the best sources of vitamin D.
Fresh Atlantic herring provides 1,628 IU per 3.5-oz (100-gram) serving, which is four times the RDI (8).
If fresh fish isn't your thing, pickled herring is also a great source of vitamin D, providing 680 IU per 3.5-oz (100-gram) serving. That's 170% of the RDI.
However, pickled herring also contains a high amount of sodium, which some people consume too much of (9).
3. Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil is a popular supplement. If you don't like fish, taking cod liver oil can be a good way to obtain certain nutrients that are hard to get from other sources.
At about 450 IU per teaspoon (4.9 ml), cod liver oil is an excellent source of vitamin D. It's been used for many years to prevent and treat deficiency in children (13, 14).
Cod liver oil is also a fantastic source of vitamin A, with 90% of the RDI in just one teaspoon (4.9 ml). However, vitamin A can be toxic in high amounts.
Therefore, it's best to be cautious with cod liver oil and not take more than you need.
4. Canned Tuna
Many people enjoy canned tuna because of its light flavor and the fact that it can be kept on-hand in the pantry.
It is also usually cheaper than buying fresh fish.
Canned light tuna contains up to 236 IU of vitamin D in a 100-gram (3.5-oz) serving, which is more than half of the RDI.
It is also a good source of niacin and vitamin K (15).
Unfortunately, canned tuna is often associated with methylmercury, a toxin that is found in many types of fish. If it builds up in the body, it can cause serious health problems in humans (16).
Oysters are a type of clam that live in salt water. They are delicious, low in calories and full of nutrients.
One 3.5-oz (100-gram) serving of wild oysters has only 68 calories, but contains 320 IU of vitamin D, or 80% of the RDI (18).
In addition, one serving of oysters contains 2–6 times more than the RDI of vitamin B12, copper and zinc — far more than multivitamins contain.
Shrimp are a popular type of shellfish.
Yet unlike most other seafood sources of vitamin D, shrimp are very low in fat.
Despite this fact, they still contain a good amount of vitamin D — 152 IU per serving, or 38% of the RDI (19).
They also contain beneficial omega-3 fatty acids, although at lower amounts than many other foods rich in vitamin D.
7. Egg Yolks
Luckily for people who don't like fish, seafood is not the only source of vitamin D. Whole eggs are another good source, as well as a wonderfully nutritious food.
While most of the protein in an egg is found in the egg white, the fat, vitamins and minerals are found mostly in the egg yolk.
One conventionally grown egg yolk contains between 18 and 39 IU of vitamin D, which isn't very high (7, 23).
However, pasture-raised chickens that roam outside in the sunlight produce eggs with levels that are three to four times higher (24).
Excluding fortified foods, mushrooms are the only plant source of vitamin D.
Similar to humans, mushrooms can synthesize this vitamin when exposed to UV light (26).
However, mushrooms produce vitamin D2, whereas animals produce vitamin D3.
Although vitamin D2 does help raise blood levels of vitamin D, it may not be as effective as vitamin D3 (27, 28).
Nonetheless, wild mushrooms are excellent sources of vitamin D2. In fact, some varieties contain up to 2,300 IU per 3.5-oz (100-gram) serving (29).
9. Fortified Foods
Natural sources of vitamin D are limited, especially if you're a vegetarian or don't like fish.
Fortunately, some foods that don't naturally contain vitamin D are fortified with it.
Cow's milk, the type of milk that most people drink, is naturally a good source of many nutrients including calcium, phosphorous and riboflavin (31).
In several countries, cow's milk is fortified with vitamin D. It usually contains about 130 IU per cup (237 ml), or about 33% of the RDI (32, 33).