9 Healthy Foods that are High in Vitamin D
Vitamin D is unique, because it can be obtained from food and sun exposure.
However, up to 50% of the world’s population may not get enough sunlight, and 40% of people in the US are deficient in vitamin D
This is partly because people spend more time indoors, wear sunblock outside and eat a Western diet low in good sources of this vitamin.
Here are 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
However, it is usually not specified whether salmon is 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)
Farmed salmon contained only 25% of that amount, on average. Still, that means a serving of farmed salmon contains about 250 IU of vitamin D, which is 63% of the RDI
Bottom Line: Wild salmon is better.
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
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.
Sardines are another type of herring that is also a good source of vitamin D. One serving contains 272 IU, which is 68% of the RDI
Other types of fatty fish are also good vitamin D sources. Halibut provides 600 IU per serving and mackerel provides 360 IU per serving
Be warned, these food come with a lot of salt, so definitely limit and watch your intake.
Bottom Line: Herring contains 1,628 IU of vitamin D per 3.5-oz (100-gram) serving. Pickled herring, sardines and other fatty fish such as halibut and mackerel are also good sources.
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
However, it’s best to be cautious with cod liver oil and not take more than you need.
Bottom Line: Cod liver oil contains 450 IU of vitamin D per teaspoon (4.9 ml). It is also high in other nutrients, such as vitamin A.
4. Canned Tuna
Many people enjoy canned tuna because of its light flavour 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.
Light tuna is typically a better choice than white tuna.
Bottom Line: Canned tuna contains 236 IU of vitamin D per serving. Choose light tuna and eat 6 oz or less per week
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.
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.
Bottom Line: Oysters are full of nutrients and provide 320 IU of vitamin D. They also contain more vitamin B12, copper and zinc than a multivitamin.
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
Bottom Line: Shrimp contain 152 IU of vitamin D per serving and are also very low in fat. They do contain cholesterol, but this is not a cause for concern.
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
However, pasture-raised chickens that roam outside in the sunlight produce eggs with levels that are three to four times higher
Choosing eggs that are either from chickens raised outside or that are marketed as high in vitamin D can be a great way to help meet your daily requirements.
Bottom Line: Eggs from commercially raised hens contain only about 30 IU of vitamin D per yolk. However, eggs from hens raised outside or fed vitamin D-enriched feed contain much higher levels.
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
Some varieties contain up to 2,300 IU per 3.5-oz (100-gram) serving.
Commercially grown mushrooms, on the other hand, are often grown in the dark and contain very little vitamin D2.
Bottom Line: Only wild mushrooms or mushrooms treated with UV light are good sources of vitamin D.
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
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.
Because vitamin D is found almost exclusively in animal products, vegetarians and vegans are at particularly high risk of not getting enough of it.
For this reason, plant-based milks such as soy milk are also often fortified with it, as well as other vitamins and minerals usually found in cow’s milk.
Around 75% of people worldwide are lactose intolerant, and another 2–3% have a milk allergy
For this reason, some countries fortify orange juice with vitamin D and other nutrients, such as calcium.
One cup (237 ml) of fortified orange juice for breakfast can start your day off with up to 142 IU of vitamin D, or 36% of the RDI
Cereal and Oatmeal
Certain cereals and instant oatmeal are also fortified with vitamin D.One half-cup serving of these foods can provide between 55 and 154 IU, or up to 39% of the RDI
Although fortified cereals and oatmeal provide less vitamin D than many natural sources, they can still be a good way to boost your intake.
Bottom Line: Some foods are fortified with vitamin D, including cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, cereals and oatmeal. They contain between 55 and 130 IU per serving.
Take Home Message
Spending some time outside in the sun is the best way to get your daily dose of vitamin D. However, getting sufficient sun exposure is not possible for many people.
Getting enough from your diet alone is difficult, but not impossible.
Eating plenty of these vitamin D-rich foods is a great way to make sure you get enough of this important nutrient.
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