Hi there! Since you landed on this page, I’m assuming you or any of your family members got their Vitamin D levels checked and they turned out to be lower than the baseline. If that is the case then, don’t worry, let me try to help you out here.
Before we move on to the list of vitamin D rich foods, let us first get an idea of what Vitamin D actually is.
What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D or the “sunshine vitamin” is the only nutrient that is produced by your body, when exposed to sunlight. It is an essential vitamin that plays a crucial role in supporting your bone health by absorbing calcium from your diet and also boosts your immunity to flu.
There are many other benefits that Vitamin D offers and going short on the levels of this vitamin can lead to Rickets in children or Osteoporosis/ Osteomalacia in adults. These are the conditions that cause the softening of bones in turn, leading to fractures. Unfortunately, many people do not get to know if they have Vitamin D deficiency as the symptoms are subtle and easy to let go of. To know about these symptoms, read Vitamin D deficiency: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment.
Vitamin D comes in two main forms:
- Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol) – Obtained mainly from plant sources like mushrooms and fortified foods.
- Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) – Obtained from animal-sourced foods like fish, egg yolk, butter, etc. It is also this form of vitamin D that your skin makes when exposed to sunlight.
Both these forms are effectively absorbed into the bloodstream and are collectively known as Calcifediol, which is the main circulating form of Vitamin D. It is the level of this Calcifediol that reflects when you get a Vitamin D test done.
Before moving on to the food sources of Vitamin D, let us understand how much Vitamin D do we need for the proper functioning of our body. Also, after knowing your daily requirement, you would be in a better position to associate with the different vitamin D rich foods and then accordingly plan to incorporate them into your diet.
How much Vitamin D do you need?
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of Vitamin D varies for people belonging to different age groups. The US department of health and human services recommends the following intake per day:
- 0–12 months: 400 IU (10 micrograms or mcg)
- 1–70 years: 600 IU (15 mcg)
- 71 years and over: 800 IU (20 mcg)
The safe upper limit of Vitamin D is raised to 4,000 IU. Doctors may prescribe more than 4,000 IU to correct a vitamin D deficiency.
Vitamin D Rich Food Sources
Your skin produces vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. However, if you shun the sun and spend most of your time indoors or live at a high latitude, do not worry, there are various Vitamin D rich foods that can be incorporated in your diet.
#1 Fatty Fish
Does this name create a picture of a fat fish in your mind, that is relaxing on the sea bed? ☺
Oily fish as they are also called are excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids along with Vitamin D.
Since Vitamin D is one of the fat-soluble vitamins, it dissolves in fat and consuming good amounts of oily fish like salmon, tuna, herring, or sardines will help ramp up your Vitamin D levels.
Apart from this, the oils from these fish like cod liver oil is also a tremendous source of Vitamin D.
Amount of Vitamin D in a few fatty fish are:
– Cooked salmon – 444 IU per 100 grams
– Swordfish – 564 IU per 100 grams
– Canned Tuna – 228 IU per 100 grams
– Canned Sardine – 164 IU per 100 grams
Vitamin D in Cod-liver oil – 452 IU per teaspoon
Mushrooms create Vitamin D from sunlight as our bodies do! If you are a vegetarian or do not like fish then, mushrooms are an excellent source of Vitamin D for you.
You can sauté mushrooms in some butter and drizzle some garlic and pepper on it. This makes a great snack and you can relish on it while ramping up your Vitamin D levels. You can also make a creamy soup out of these mushrooms, or a scrumptious and healthy mushroom and spinach pasta.
As per a study, mushrooms that are exposed to sunlight or UV are known to provide much higher levels of Vitamin D. The different types being Portobello, shiitake, oyster, and raw white mushrooms.
Vitamin D in Mushroom – between 154 to 1022 IU per 100 grams, based on the exposure to sunlight.
Set aside Vitamin D, mushrooms are a powerhouse of other nutrients too! They are rich in Vitamin B, fiber, essential minerals, complex carbs, and you know the best part? They are low in calories too! So, consider incorporating mushrooms in your daily diet to reap all its benefits.
#3 Egg Yolk
An egg is the most versatile, low-calorie, and easy-to-cook ingredient in our kitchens, isn’t it? When it comes to nutrition, eggs are hard to beat!
It is a common myth that consuming egg yolk is fattening. I won’t deny that yolk has some fat, but it is the “good fat” that helps in performing the bodily functions and absorption of nutrients from your diet.
While most of the protein in an egg is found in the white part, the fat, vitamins, and minerals are present in the yolk. Since, Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, consuming egg yolks can provide you good levels of it.
Vitamin D in 1 large hard-boiled egg – 44 IU
Making smart choices for your breakfast and having 2 boiled eggs or a dish of scrambled eggs can give you 88 international units of Vitamin D, which is 15% of a person’s RDA.
#4 Vitamin D Fortified Foods
Apart from the natural food sources of Vitamin D, there are many products available in the market that are fortified with this nutrient, let’s explore these:
We have all grown up hearing that milk makes your bones strong and there is nothing that can deny that fact! Milk contains Calcium and the ones that are fortified with Vitamin D, pack you up with all that you need for maintaining a great bone and muscle health. So, read the labels or ingredients list and drink up!
Vitamin D in whole milk – 128 IU per cup
It is a common practice to fortify breakfast cereals and instant oatmeal with vitamins and minerals.
Some varieties can contain added ingredients that make the product less healthy, like sugar or hydrogenated fats. So, look out for the ones with little or no added sugar.
Vitamin D in Fortified ready-to-eat Cereal – 120 IU per cup (can vary with different brands)
Though fortified cereals and oatmeal provide less vitamin D than many natural sources, they can still be a good way to boost your intake especially when you have it with a glass of whole milk.
What is better than starting your day with a glass of your favourite orange juice? It is a great source of antioxidants and Vitamin C, and the ones available in the market are usually fortified with Vitamin D too!
Vitamin D in Fortified Orange Juice – Around 100 IU per glass (237 ml)
So, read labels to find out the best no sugar variant and get your fix of the sunshine vitamin.
Many brands of margarine add vitamin D as a nutrient.
Vitamin D in Margarine – Around 20 IU per tablespoon (14 grams)
Note: The fortification standards vary across different countries and the brands too, so it is best to check the product label to know if it is fortified in Vitamin D and if yes, then how much does it contain.
Are you a cheese lover? If yes, then there’s good news for you! Cheese is a good source of calcium, fat, and protein. It also contains some amounts of Vitamin D.
Though cheese is packed with nutrients, it is high in calories too! So, eat it in moderation and raise your Vitamin D quotient.
Vitamin D in Cheese (Cheddar, goat, feta, gouda, parmesan, Swiss, etc.) – around 27 IU per 100 grams
Yogurt is an excellent source of probiotics, calcium, and protein but when it is fortified with vitamins and minerals including Vitamin D, its nutritional value amplifies.
Vitamin D in fortified yogurt – Around 40-60 IU per 100 grams
#7 Soy Products
Are you intolerant to dairy? Get your dose of vitamin D by consuming these healthy soy products:
A glass of fortified Soy milk is not only rich in nutrients like potassium but is also much lower in calories compared to cow’s milk.
As with all the fortified foods, the amount of Vitamin D may differ from brand to brand. So, check the labels and choose the one that gives you more than 100 IU of Vitamin D per serving.
Here’s another excellent option that vegetarians or vegans can incorporate in their diets. Tofu is a healthy source of protein, calcium, iron, and you guessed it right – Vitamin D.
Vitamin D in Tofu – 52 IU per 100 grams
Plan your meals and try incorporating these Vitamin D rich foods wherever possible. For breakfast, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, or hard-boiled eggs with a glass of fortified milk or orange juice is perfect. Not in a mood for eggs? you can also opt for fortified breakfast cereal or oatmeal.
Tinned tuna is a great source of Vitamin D and a convenient option for lunch-on-the-go. You can make a sandwich out of it, or top it over your healthy salads. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan then a tofu sandwich or stir-fry could be a good option.
For your evening meals, you can have oily fish with sauteed mushrooms, or a delicious cheesy mushroom casserole or a sandwich.
It’s a stark fact that there are not too many natural sources of Vitamin D and if you’re a vegetarian/vegan then, it might be even more challenging for you to get your daily dose of Vitamin D. You know the good part? There are Vitamin D supplements available in the market for your rescue! They can act as a reliable and consistent source. Make sure to not overdo on these vitamin D supplements and stay within the permissible limits.
If you are highly deficient in Vitamin D, you should consult your doctor as there are Vitamin D shots available too, for coping up with the deficiency a bit quickly. Do not go for these yourself, it is always the medical practitioner’s call to recommend it to you.
As a takeaway, even though you can take vitamin D supplements to raise your quotient, it would still be better to go for the natural ways! Try giving your taste buds a punch of these Vitamin D rich foods as much as possible. Rest, standing in the sun for 10-15 minutes at least twice per week can do wonders for your health. Soak up and stay healthy, it is as simple as that!