12 Foods That Are Good Sources of Vitamin D

by Ella

Vitamin D, often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin,” plays a crucial role in maintaining overall health and well-being. While our bodies can produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, many individuals may face challenges in obtaining sufficient levels, especially in regions with limited sunlight or during the winter months. As a result, incorporating foods rich in vitamin D into your diet becomes essential. In this comprehensive exploration, we’ll delve into the significance of vitamin D, its role in the body, and present 12 foods that serve as excellent sources of this vital nutrient.

Understanding the Importance of Vitamin D:

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that functions as a hormone in the body. Unlike other essential nutrients, vitamin D can be synthesized by the skin when exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from sunlight. This unique ability makes sunlight a primary source of vitamin D for many people.


The significance of vitamin D lies in its diverse roles within the body. It plays a crucial role in maintaining bone health by regulating calcium and phosphorus absorption. Additionally, vitamin D supports immune function, helps reduce inflammation, and contributes to overall cardiovascular health. Deficiencies in vitamin D have been linked to various health conditions, including osteoporosis, autoimmune disorders, and cardiovascular diseases.


Factors Affecting Vitamin D Synthesis:

While sunlight remains a primary source of vitamin D, several factors can affect the synthesis of this vital nutrient in the body:


Geographical Location: Individuals living in northern latitudes with limited sunlight exposure, especially during the winter months, may struggle to produce sufficient vitamin D.


Skin Tone: Darker skin tones have higher melanin levels, which reduce the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D in response to sunlight.

Age: Aging affects the skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D efficiently.

Use of Sunscreen: Applying sunscreen, while crucial for preventing skin damage, can limit the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D.

Given these factors, obtaining vitamin D through dietary sources becomes imperative for individuals who may be at risk of deficiency.

Foods Rich in Vitamin D:

1. Fatty Fish:

Salmon: Wild-caught salmon is an excellent source of vitamin D. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving can provide around 988 IU (International Units) of vitamin D.

Mackerel: Mackerel, whether Atlantic or Pacific, is rich in both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving can contain approximately 360 IU of vitamin D.

2. Cod Liver Oil:

A traditional supplement, cod liver oil is not only rich in omega-3 fatty acids but also provides a significant amount of vitamin D. A single tablespoon can offer over 1,300 IU of vitamin D.

3. Canned Tuna:

Canned tuna is a convenient and affordable source of vitamin D. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving typically contains around 236 IU of vitamin D.

4. Egg Yolks:

While egg whites are protein-rich, the yolks are where you’ll find vitamin D. One large egg yolk provides about 37 IU of vitamin D.

5. Fortified Foods:

Many food products are fortified with vitamin D, especially for individuals with limited sun exposure. This includes fortified milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereals.

6. Beef Liver:

Organ meats, particularly beef liver, are rich in various nutrients, including vitamin D. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving can contain approximately 49 IU of vitamin D.

7. Cheese:

Certain types of cheese, such as Swiss and cheddar, contain small amounts of vitamin D. However, the levels may vary, and it’s essential to consider the fat content.

8. Mushrooms:

While most plant-based foods are not significant sources of vitamin D, some mushrooms, such as maitake and chanterelle, naturally contain vitamin D. Additionally, certain varieties of mushrooms are exposed to UV light during cultivation to boost their vitamin D content.

9. Fortified Yogurt:

Some yogurts are fortified with vitamin D, making them a good option for those looking to increase their intake of this nutrient.

10. Sardines:

These small, oily fish are not only rich in omega-3 fatty acids but also provide a substantial amount of vitamin D. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving can contain around 480 IU of vitamin D.

11. Pork:

Pork, particularly pork chops, is a good source of vitamin D. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving may contain approximately 63 IU of vitamin D.

12. Oysters:

Oysters are not only a delicacy but also a source of various nutrients, including vitamin D. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving can provide about 320 IU of vitamin D.

Factors Affecting Vitamin D Content in Foods:

Several factors can influence the vitamin D content in foods:

Processing Methods: Cooking methods and food processing can impact the vitamin D content. For instance, frying salmon can lead to a slight reduction in its vitamin D levels.

Wild vs. Farmed Fish: Wild-caught fish may have higher vitamin D levels than their farmed counterparts, as their natural diet often includes vitamin D-rich prey.

Mushroom Exposure to Sunlight: Some commercially available mushrooms are exposed to ultraviolet (UV) light during cultivation to increase their vitamin D content. Always check labels for information on this process.

Fortification Levels: The amount of vitamin D in fortified foods can vary between brands and products. Carefully read labels to determine the vitamin D content of fortified items.

See Also: Vitamin D – Benefits, Deficiency, Sources, & Dosage


Ensuring an adequate intake of vitamin D is essential for maintaining overall health and preventing deficiencies that can lead to various health issues. While sunlight remains a primary source of vitamin D, incorporating foods rich in this essential nutrient into your diet is a practical and effective way to meet your nutritional needs.

The 12 foods mentioned provide a diverse range of options for individuals with different dietary preferences. Whether you enjoy fatty fish, eggs, or fortified foods, there are numerous delicious choices to help you maintain optimal vitamin D levels. As with any nutrient, it’s crucial to strike a balance and consult with healthcare professionals to tailor your diet to your individual needs. By harnessing the power of these vitamin D-rich foods, you can take a proactive approach to supporting your overall well-being and basking in the benefits of this vital nutrient.



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