Healthy Foods That Are High in Vitamin D

Vitamin D is added to a lot of foods like cow's milk and cereal, but there are only a handful of foods naturally rich in the vitamin.

Without much unprotected sun exposure, the human body makes very little vitamin D, yet its function affects many important processes. Symptoms of a shortfall can include fatigue, frequent infections, depression, hair loss, bone loss, and pain in muscles, joints, or bones.

3 Best Vitamin D-Rich Foods

Vitamin D is added to cow’s milk, many plant milks, cereals, and other foods. While these are all good sources of the vitamin, they work much like a supplement, as the vitamin D is not a natural ingredient in the food. Top natural sources include:

1. Fish and Seafood

These are the richest sources of vitamin D if they aren’t deep fried. One study found that frying salmon in vegetable oil eliminated half its vitamin D content. Approximate amounts of vitamin D in a 3.5-ounce serving:

  • Wild salmon: nearly 1,000 IU or more
  • Farmed salmon: 250 IU
  • Pickled herring: 680 IU
  • Wild oysters: 320 IU
  • Sardines: 270 IU
  • Canned tuna: 230 IU
  • Shrimp: 150 IU

2. Egg Yolks

Vitamin D levels can vary from 20 to 40 IU per yolk if chickens are raised on factory farms to about four times that amount from pasture-raised hens, and much more if chickens are fed vitamin D-enriched feed.

3. Mushrooms

The only plant to produce vitamin D, mushrooms make it when they are exposed to sunlight. Some wild mushrooms can contain as much as 2,300 mg of vitamin D in a 3.5 oz. serving, but most mushrooms aren’t good sources because they’re farmed indoors in the dark. The exceptions are farmed mushrooms that have been exposed to UV light, and these should clearly be labelled as such, ideally with some information about their vitamin D content. Mushrooms can retain half or more of their vitamin D when cooked.

How Much Vitamin D Is Enough?

Government guidelines recommend getting 600 IU daily up to age 70 and 800 IU after that, but many experts recommend taking 1,000 IU daily or more. Ideally, get your vitamin D blood levels tested to identify how much you need.