Foods high in vitamin D

Medically reviewed on April 4, 2022 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Vitamin D plays a vital role in the human body. It’s responsible for regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. It also impacts bone health, inflammation, immune function, and cellular growth [1].

Unfortunately, over 40% of Americans are insufficient or deficient in vitamin D [2], putting them at a greater risk of developing a wide range of chronic diseases. The average adult needs between 600–800 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day [1], which you can get from sun exposure, supplementation, and foods high in vitamin D.

If you spend most of your time indoors or live somewhere that doesn’t get a lot of sunshine, adding more vitamin-D-rich foods to your diet could help prevent a deficiency. Below, we’ll discuss ten tasty, nutritious foods that are high in vitamin D (as well as an at-home Vitamin D Test to consider taking).

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1. Salmon

Salmon, along with many other fatty fish, is an excellent source of vitamin D. In a 100-gram serving:

  • Farmed salmon provides over 500 IU of vitamin D, which is 66% of the daily recommended intake [3].
  • Wild-caught salmon provides nearly 1,000 IU of vitamin D, surpassing the daily recommended intake [4].

Salmon is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and protein, making it a very nutritious (not to mention delicious) fish [5].

2. Tuna

Another fish that offers a lot of vitamin D is tuna. A 100-gram serving of tuna offers around 270 IU of vitamin D. That’s over 30% of the daily recommended intake [6].

You can buy tuna fresh or canned. While both provide tasty options, canned tuna is a convenient pantry staple to keep on hand since it’s cheap and easy to store. Some meals that can be made with this fish include:

  • Tuna sandwiches
  • Tuna salad
  • Tuna tartare
  • Poke bowls

While tuna delivers a lot of vitamin D, it also contains a notable amount of methylmercury, which can be toxic when consumed in large quantities [7]. For this reason, tuna should be consumed in moderation.

3. Herring

Herring is a small fish that packs a hefty punch of vitamin D. It has 126 IU of vitamin D per 100-gram serving, delivering over 25% of the daily recommended intake [8].

As an added benefit, herring has less methylmercury compared to other fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids [9], so it can be safely consumed more frequently.

4. Egg yolks

While many people may enjoy egg whites as a healthy source of protein, the yolk is where the egg’s vitamins and minerals can be found, including vitamin D. On average, one egg yolk has 37 IU of vitamin D, which is around 5% of the recommended daily intake [10].

Interestingly, vitamin D levels in eggs vary depending on the lifestyle of the chickens they come from. Chickens that get more sunshine and eat vitamin-D-rich feed lay eggs that contain more vitamin D. In fact, according to a 2014 study, pasture-raised chickens have three to four times more vitamin D in their eggs compared to their commercially-raised counterparts [11].

Whether you get your eggs from the grocery store or a free-range coup, they can easily add vitamin D to your diet. Just scramble, hard-boil, or fry them and season them with some salt and pepper.

5. Mushrooms

So far, all the vitamin D foods we’ve discussed are animal products. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you may wonder what you can add to your diet to support healthy vitamin D levels. One plant-based source of vitamin D is mushrooms. Just like humans, mushrooms can synthesize vitamin D from the sun [12].

Wild-grown mushrooms boast around 2,300 IU of vitamin D per 100-grams [12]. However, most commercially-grown mushrooms are grown in the dark, away from any UV light. If you purchase these types of mushrooms at the grocery store, you can set them outside in sunlight for 20 minutes so they get a chance to soak up some sun and synthesize a little vitamin D.

Another benefit of mushrooms is that they can complement a variety of dishes. From portobellos to shiitakes, you can:

  • Grill them on the BBQ
  • Sauté them in a stir fry
  • Roast them in the oven

6. Fortified milk

People may drink milk for its calcium content [13], but to absorb this calcium properly the body needs to have adequate amounts of vitamin D. Fortunately, cow’s milk is often fortified with vitamin D in many countries, including the United States. Many plant-based milk alternatives are also fortified with vitamin D.

Fortified cow’s milk contains around 84 IU of vitamin D per 100 grams. The same serving size of the following plant-based milk alternatives can offer up to 89 IU of vitamin D [14]:

  • Soy milk
  • Almond milk
  • Oat milk

Drinking your preferred type of fortified milk daily may help increase vitamin D levels. Try adding it to a morning coffee, post-workout smoothie, or favorite breakfast cereal.

7. Fortified orange juice

Orange juice is another popular breakfast beverage that can come fortified with vitamin D. One cup of fortified orange juice offers 100 IU of vitamin D or 12% of the recommended daily intake [15].

To receive this benefit, you’ll need to swap out your freshly-squeezed orange juice for a boxed brand from the grocery store. Make sure to look for a brand that advertises its vitamin D fortification clearly on the packaging.

8. Fortified yogurt

Another vitamin D-fortified product is yogurt. Both dairy-based and plant-based yogurts are frequently fortified with vitamin D to boost their nutritional value. The vitamin D IU count can therefore vary from brand to brand.

In addition to vitamin D, yogurt contains probiotics, calcium, potassium, magnesium, and other important nutrients [16].

You can enjoy yogurt plain or with a drizzle of honey, granola, or berries on top.

9. Fortified tofu

Just like soy milk and soy yogurt, soy-based tofu can be fortified with vitamin D. A 100-gram serving of fortified tofu contains 100 IU of vitamin D, which is around 12% of the daily recommended intake [17].

Tofu, fortified or not, is also a great source of calcium, iron, and protein [18]. Many vegans and vegetarians rely on it as their go-to protein source.

While bland on its own, tofu absorbs the taste of what it’s cooked in, so the right preparation and seasoning can make tofu a delicious addition to any meal. You can try adding it to:

  • Stir fries
  • Tacos
  • Burritos
  • Creamy pasta sauces
  • Curries
  • Sandwiches

10. Fortified cereal

Cereal is often fortified with many vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D. One serving of fortified cereal can provide 80 IU of vitamin D, which makes up around 10% of the daily recommended intake [1].

If you pair fortified cereal with some fortified milk, you can turn breakfast into a double dose of vitamin D.

Vitamin D2 vs. vitamin D3: what’s the difference?

While all these tasty foods provide vitamin D, some of them are more effective for helping reverse a vitamin D insufficiency compared to others.

This is because there are two different types of vitamin D [1]:

  • D2 ( ergocalciferol) – Vitamin D2 is derived from plant sources. It’s the type of vitamin D found in mushrooms and many fortified foods. While vitamin D2 may help raise vitamin D levels, it’s not as effective for this purpose compared to vitamin D3.
  • D3 (cholecalciferol) – Vitamin D3 is derived from animals, including humans. It’s the form of vitamin D we naturally synthesize from the sun. In turn, it’s a more easily absorbable form of vitamin D.

Even though D3 is a superior form of vitamin D when it comes to supporting healthy levels, consuming both types in adequate amounts can help.

Vitamin D deficiency risk factors

By adding these foods to your shopping list and including them in your diet, you can help support healthy vitamin D levels—even when it’s difficult to spend time in the sun. One thing to keep in mind: there may be a greater risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency if any of the risk factors below apply to you [1].

  • You have darker skin
  • You are elderly or obese
  • You adhere to a vegan or vegetarian diet
  • You have had gastric bypass surgery
  • You have a digestive disease, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease

So in addition to eating a vitamin D-rich diet, consider talking with a healthcare provider about regularly taking a vitamin D supplement.

Everlywell: check your vitamin D levels from the comfort of home

Wondering if you’re getting enough vitamin D? An effective way to find out if you’re deficient is by testing vitamin D levels in the blood.

Fortunately, you can easily check your levels at home using a Vitamin D home test from Everlywell. Our Vitamin D test kit uses a quick and easy finger prick you can collect yourself. Once you’ve collected your sample, you can send it off to one of our CLIA Certified labs and await your results. If they come back deficient, you and your healthcare provider can develop a plan to bring your levels back up to an optimal range.

Vitamin D vs. D3: what's the difference?

What are normal vitamin D levels?

3 reasons why your body needs vitamin D


References

1. Vitamin D. National Institutes of Health. URL. Accessed April 4, 2022.

2. Forrest KY, Stuhldreher WL. Prevalence and correlates of vitamin D deficiency in US adults. Nutr Res. 2011 Jan;31(1):48-54. PMID: 21310306.

3. Fish, salmon, Atlantic, farmed, cooked, dry heat. U.S. Department of Agriculture. URL. Accessed April 4, 2022.

4. Lu Z, Chen TC, Zhang A, et al. An evaluation of the vitamin D3 content in fish: Is the vitamin D content adequate to satisfy the dietary requirement for vitamin D?. J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2007;103(3-5):642-644.

5. Consumers Missing Out on Health Benefits of Seafood Consumption. U.S. Department of Agriculture. URL. Accessed April 4, 2022.

6. Fish, tuna, fresh, bluefin, raw. U.S. Department of Agriculture. URL. Accessed April 4, 2022.

7. Sunderland EM. Mercury exposure from domestic and imported estuarine and marine fish in the U.S. seafood market. Environ Health Perspect. 2007 Feb;115(2):235-42. Epub 2006 Nov 20.

8. Fish, herring, Atlantic, cooked, dry heat. U.S. Department of Agriculture. URL. Accessed April 4, 2022.

9. Mercury Levels in Commercial Fish and Shellfish. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. URL. Accessed April 4, 2022.

10. Schmid A, Walther B. Natural vitamin D content in animal products. Adv Nutr. 2013 Jul 1;4(4):453-62.

11. Kühn J, Schutkowski A, Kluge H, Hirche F, Stangl GI. Free-range farming: a natural alternative to produce vitamin D-enriched eggs. Nutrition. 2014 Apr;30(4):481-4.

12. Simon RR, Borzelleca JF, DeLuca HF, Weaver CM. Safety assessment of the post-harvest treatment of button mushrooms (Agaricus bisporus) using ultraviolet light. Food Chem Toxicol. 2013 Jun;56:278-89.

13. Milk, nonfat, fluid, without added vitamin A and vitamin D (fat free or skim). U.S. Department of Agriculture. URL. Accessed April 4, 2022.

14. Vitamin D for Milk and Milk Alternatives. U.S. Food & Drug Administration. URL. Accessed April 4, 2022.

15. Orange juice, chilled, includes from concentrate, with added calcium and vitamin D. U.S. Department of Agriculture. URL. Accessed April 4, 2022.

16. Yogurt, Greek, plain, lowfat. U.S. Department of Agriculture. URL. Accessed April 4, 2022.

17. Tofu, firm, prepared with calcium sulfate and magnesium chloride (nigari). U.S. Department of Agriculture. URL. Accessed April 4, 2022.

18. Tofu. U.S. Department of Agriculture. URL. Accessed April 4, 2022.

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