Foods, including certain fish, egg yolks, and more, contain vitamin D. Changing your diet may help reduce or prevent vitamin D deficiency.
Interest in vitamin D and its role in our overall health journey is growing.
We know that vitamin D affects many bodily functions, including bone health. Research also suggests that low vitamin D levels may be a risk factor for autoimmune diseases (1Trusted Source).
Many people don’t get enough vitamin D. It’s hard to know how many people are deficient because experts are still debating about what target levels should be (1Trusted Source).
Research suggests that about 24% of people in the United States are vitamin D deficient. Other areas of the world may have higher rates of deficiency. It’s estimated that in Europe, about 40% of the population has vitamin D deficiency (1Trusted Source).
Our bodies produce vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. There are a few reasons why it’s hard to get enough vitamin D this way.
To reduce the risk of skin cancer, it’s smart to cover up, wear sunscreen, and avoid being outside during peak sun hours. And depending on where you live in the world, it may just not be possible to have enough year-round sun exposure.
That’s why getting vitamin D from food or supplements is best.
Daily recommended dose of vitamin D
The daily value (DV) for vitamin D is 800 IU (20 mcg). The vitamin D content is listed as a percentage of the DV on the nutrition facts label on food packages. This tells you what amount of your daily vitamin D requirement the food will provide (2Trusted Source, 3Trusted Source).
It’s best to get vitamin D from food or supplements.
Whether you need a vitamin D supplement in addition to food and sun exposure is a question to ask your doctor. They can also help you find out if you are deficient.
Here are 7 healthy foods that are high in vitamin D.
Salmon is a popular fatty fish and a great source of vitamin D.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Food Composition Database, one 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of farmed Atlantic salmon contains 526 IU of vitamin D, or 66% of the DV (4Trusted Source).
Whether the salmon is wild or farmed can make a big difference in the vitamin D content.
On average, wild-caught salmon has more vitamin D. The amount of vitamin D will vary depending on where the salmon is caught and the time of year.
One study showed that the vitamin D content of salmon caught in the Baltic sea ranged from 556–924 IU of vitamin D per one 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, providing 70–111% of the DV (5Trusted Source).
Wild salmon typically contains more vitamin D than farmed salmon, but both are good sources of vitamin D. In a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, farmed salmon contains around 66% of the DV and wild salmon can contain up to 160% of the DV.
2. Herring and sardines
Herring is a fish eaten around the world. It is often smoked or pickled. This small fish is also a great source of vitamin D.
Fresh Atlantic herring provides 214 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, which is 27% of the DV (6Trusted Source).
If fresh fish isn’t your thing, pickled herring is also a good source of vitamin D, providing 113 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, or 14% of the DV. Pickled herring also contains a high amount of sodium, at 870 mg per serving. It may not be a great option if you are trying to lower your salt intake (7Trusted Source).
Canned sardines are a good source of vitamin D as well. A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving provides 193 IU or 24% of the DV (8Trusted Source).
Other types of fatty fish are also good vitamin D sources. Halibut and mackerel provide 190 IU and 643 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, respectively (9Trusted Source, 10Trusted Source).
Herring contains 214 IU of vitamin D per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving. Pickled herring, sardines, and other fatty fish, such as halibut and mackerel, are also good sources.
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3. Cod liver oil
Cod liver oil is a popular supplement. If you don’t like fish, taking cod liver oil is another way to get nutrients that are hard to get otherwise.
It’s an excellent source of vitamin D. At about 450 IU per teaspoon (4.9 mL), it clocks in at a massive 56% of the DV. It has been used for many years to treat vitamin D deficiency. It also has a history of being used as part of treating rickets, psoriasis, and tuberculosis (11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).
Cod liver oil is also very high in vitamin A, with 150% of the DV in just a single teaspoon (4.9 mL). Vitamin A can be toxic in high amounts. The safe upper limit (UL) for vitamin A is 3,000 mcg. A single teaspoon (4.9 mL) of cod liver oil contains 1,350 mcg of vitamin A.
Make sure that you aren’t exceeding the upper limit with cod liver oil or any other vitamin A supplements (11Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source).
In addition, cod liver oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s may play a role in heart health and may reduce inflammation in the body. Along with fatty fish, cod liver oil is another source of these fatty acids. If you don’t eat fish, it can be hard to get enough omega-3 in your diet (14Trusted Source)
4. Canned tuna
Many people enjoy canned tuna because of its flavor and easy storage methods. It is typically cheaper than buying fresh fish.
Canned light tuna packs up to 269 IU of vitamin D in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, which is 34% of the DV (15Trusted Source).
Mercury is a heavy metal found in many types of fish. Bigger types of fish contain more mercury than smaller ones. The amount of mercury in canned tuna depends on the type of tuna.
Light canned tuna comes from smaller fish and is lower in mercury. White canned tuna is higher in mercury (16).
Over time, methylmercury can build up in your body. In some cases, it can lead to serious health concerns (16, 17).
The Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) recommends only a single 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of light tuna per week. If you’re concerned about mercury consumption, talk with your doctor about the appropriate amount of tuna to eat per week for you (16).
Canned tuna contains 269 IU of vitamin D per serving. Choose light tuna and eat no more than one serving per week to prevent methylmercury buildup.
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