Vitamin D Source Foods

In recent years, doctors have begun to realize the many health benefits of the “sunshine vitamin.” While sun exposure is a great way to boost levels of vitamin D, dietary changes are another way to get more of this important nutrient. Foods that are good vitamin D sources include salmon, egg yolks, beef liver and fortified milk.

But what is vitamin D? Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps your body absorb calcium-which makes for strong bones-and also plays a role in immune system function and cell growth. Unlike most vitamins, your body is able to make vitamin D when your skin is exposed to sunlight. While the sun is the best source of vitamin D, you can also get vitamin D from some foods, and adding these foods to your diet can help boost low vitamin D levels.

Natural Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D occurs naturally in relatively few foods. Good natural vitamin D sources include:

  • Beef liver
  • Cheese
  • Cod liver oil
  • Egg yolks
  • Mackerel
  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Sardines.

Other foods may contain small amounts of vitamin D, including beef, chicken, other types of fish, pork, turkey and mushrooms.

Cod liver oil and fatty fish (tuna, salmon and mackerel) are high in vitamin D. Once 3-ounce serving of cooked salmon contains 764 IU (international units) of Vitamin D, for example. Other foods contain much smaller amounts of vitamin D. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D for adults ranges from 200 to 600 IU a day, depending on age.

Foods Fortified with Vitamin D

Vitamin D is sometimes added to foods. Foods that are sometimes fortified with vitamin D include:

  • Cereal
  • Juice
  • Margarine
  • Milk
  • Yogurt.

Almost all milk sold in the United States is fortified with at least 100 IU of vitamin D per cup. In the U.S., only certain foods can be fortified with vitamin D, including cereal flours, milk and milk products, as well as juices and other drinks that have been fortified with calcium.

Am I Getting Enough Vitamin D from My Diet?

It’s very difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone. Most people get the vitamin D they need through sun exposure, or a combination of dietary sources and the sun.

Determining how much vitamin D you are getting from food can be difficult. That’s because food labels are not required to list total vitamin D content unless the food is vitamin D fortified. However, if you have low vitamin D, adding some vitamin D-rich foods to your diet is one way to increase overall vitamin D intake.


Mayo Clinic. (2009). Vitamin D. Retrieved December 27, 2009 from the Mayo Clinic website:

National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. (2009). Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. Retrieved December 27, 2009 from the National Institutes of Health website:

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). (n.d). USDA national nutrient database for standard reference, release 22. Retrieved December 27, 2009 from the USDA website: