Vitamin D is one of the essential nutrients for the body to function properly. The benefits of vitamin D have indeed also been demonstrated by several scientific studies.

A deficiency of vitamin D can cause a host of health problems. Thankfully, many foods that we have at our disposition contain this vitamin, allowing us to get plenty through our diet.

But what are the best vitamin D foods? How do you ensure sufficient nutritional intake of vitamin D through your diet? Let’s take a look together.

Roles of Vitamin D

  • Promotes the absorption of calcium and its fixation on the bones. It allows the skeleton to be properly mineralized and it strengthens the bones, which makes vitamin D essential to avoid bone fractures which tend to occur more often with age.
  • Promotes the contraction and renewal of fibers.
  • Plays a role in the prevention of cardiovascular pathologies.
  • Protects neurons and acts on our mood. Serotonin, often called the “happiness hormone”, is partly synthesized in the brain from an amino acid which is activated by vitamin D.
  • Strengthens the immune system.

Foods high in vitamin D

Western diets are often very poor in natural sources of vitamin D. As a result, many people face nutritional deficiencies.

However, a deficiency of Vitamin D can have grave consequences on health, especially on bone health. Indeed, this vitamin is involved in the absorption process of phosphorus and calcium and performs many other roles.

We must therefore ensure that we get enough of it every day. Here are the best sources of vitamin D.

1.   Oily fish

The best sources of vitamin D are fish. Cod liver is extremely rich in vitamin D, containing 54.3 µg per 100 grams of canned liver, and up to 100 µg per 100 grams of raw liver.

A very small portion of this product is enough to meet your daily needs (beware of an overdose of vitamins A and D)

Other fish are also great sources of vitamin D. This is the case with herring (smoked or grilled), which provides between 16 and 22 µp of vitamin D per 100 grams. Ditto for mackerel (between 8 and 12.3 µp/ 100 grams) and sardines (10 to 12.3 µp / 100 grams)!

We can also mention anchovies and salmon, which are also excellent natural sources. Diversify your intake by alternating the fish eaten over the weeks. Seafood also contains this vitamin and can help you diversify your diet.

We advise you to consume wild fish from sustainable fishing as part of a healthy and balanced diet. Choose quality products and consume them once or twice a week if possible. You can easily combine them with other sources of vitamin D to supplement your intake while respecting the main dietary recommendations.

2.   Chanterelles and other mushrooms

In general, mushrooms are good sources of vitamin D. In addition to adding flavor to dishes, they help us fill our nutritional intake very effectively. The mushrooms richest in vitamin D are certainly chanterelles. They contain 5.3 µp per 100 grams when raw. But they are not the only ones since morels follow them very closely with 5.1 µp per 100 grams.

Shiitake mushrooms contain 3.9 µp per 100 grams.

For their vitamin and nutrient intake, we can also consume button mushrooms and all other kinds of mushrooms: chanterelles, boletus, Asian and medicinal mushrooms, etc.

Do not hesitate to alternate the mushrooms you consume, combine them, and mix them to benefit from their very valuable nutritional contributions.

These are the only plant sources of vitamin D. People who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet may turn to these foods in particular.

3.   Dairy products

Certain dairy products are also very good sources of vitamin D, like milk and all of its derived products such as cheese and yogurt. Milk contains 0.5 µp of vitamin D per 100 grams. Milk is particularly efficient since it is also a source of calcium, on which vitamin D acts beneficially. A large glass of milk can meet up to 15% of our daily needs for this vitamin.

150-gram yogurts fortified with vitamin D can also cover 10 to 15% of our needs since they contain approximately 1 to 1.5 µp.

In addition, you can also find this vitamin in condensed milk, as well as certain cheeses such as Emmental or cream cheese.

However, be careful not to abuse dairy products which can promote osteoporosis, especially if consumed in high doses. Be sure to keep a healthy and balanced diet at all times.

4.   Dark chocolate

An excellent source of magnesium and a real natural stress reliever, dark chocolate is also one of the best sources of vitamin D.

Although it cannot compete with fish or mushrooms, it does its part with 5 µp per 100 grams. Of course, here we are talking about dark chocolate with the highest concentration of cocoa. Eating a few pieces of dark chocolate from time to time will only do you good!

Of course, choose high-quality chocolate from organic farming. Here, quality always prevails over quantity.

5.   Eggs

While they’re not the best source of vitamin D, eggs still contain a good amount. They represent an inexpensive and accessible source of vitamin D. Two eggs provide around 20% of the recommended daily allowance in terms of vitamin D (1.88 µP).

Note that this vitamin is mainly present in the yolk of the egg! Eggs from free-range hens raised on pasture contain three to four times more vitamin D than battery hens’ eggs.

Likewise, their diet influences the nutritional composition of eggs. Quality is essential here as well!

6.   Vegetable oils and fats

Some vegetable oils and fats contain calciferol, also known as vitamin D2. Thus, they can be a source, some less, of vitamin D in our food.

On average, vegetable margarine contains 10 µp per 100 grams, which represents 2 µp per 20-gram portion (20% of the recommended daily allowance for this vitamin).

We can use this margarine for bread or baking, to improve the quality of our diet all this while controlling our lipid intake and keeping an eye on cholesterol.

7.   Fortified vegetable drinks

Vegetable drinks (soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, hazelnut milk, etc.) sold in stores are most often fortified with vitamin D.

In addition to being an alternative to milk from cows or other animals, they constitute a source of calciferol to integrate into our diet to diversify it as much as possible.

People who follow a specific diet (vegetarian, vegan) can find them an interesting source of many nutrients.

Be careful, you must check the product packaging to see that it indeed contains vitamin D as a supplement.

8.   Wild fish oil

Fish oil in capsules is a possible solution to supplement dietary sources of vitamin D. In addition to being very rich in omega 3 fatty acids, fish oil contains calcium in considerable quantities.

This is why this product is also often recommended for people who lack vitamin D or suffer from a deficiency.

Care must be taken to choose fish oil from wild and sustainable fishing for optimal intake and the best benefits.

9.   Cod liver oil

Cod liver oil is a recognized dietary supplement, which is an ideal alternative to meet the needs for certain nutrients when food is no longer sufficient.

It is a natural source of vitamins A and D, as well as omega 3 fatty acids. A single scoop of this oil is enough to meet about 75% of the daily vitamin D requirement of an adult.

We always recommend seeking medical advice before starting a course of dietary supplements. In the case of this oil, there is a real risk of vitamin overdose. Caution is in order.

10.   Lichen

Lichen is not a plant; it is an association between a fungus and algae. However, lichen is part of the group of food supplements rich in vitamin D. Its assimilation is optimal, and it is suitable for the whole family from an early age.

If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, the supplementation of vitamin D as a food supplement is possible thanks to products made from lichen.

11.   The Sun

The sun is not a food, but it is one of the best sources of vitamin D around. The UVB rays it sends out are captured by our body through the skin when we expose it to the sun during the day. The body synthesizes vitamin D3 through an internal mechanism.

We can therefore meet our nutritional intake of vitamin D by taking a sunbathe.

However, it should be noted here that the sun is not always enough to meet our vitamin D intake. Depending on our location, it is not present or sufficiently intense throughout the year, increasing the risk of deficiency.

In winter, diet and supplementation play an even more important role.

Learn more about the benefits of sunbathing here.

Video Summary – Best Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms

Over a long period of time, the following symptoms of vitamin D deficiency and diseases may develop:

Last Words

There are several foods rich in vitamin D, of which fish are the best sources. But our vitamin intake should be ideally distributed among the different food families. This is to allow a balanced diet throughout the year.

Fish, mushrooms, dairy products or vegetable substitutes, vegetable oils… Supplementation can intervene when the best sources of vitamin D are no longer sufficient.

Remember to ask your doctor for advice if you think you are suffering from a deficiency of Vitamin D.

Stephan Meed

A southern gentleman at heart, Stephan is a man you'll find mudding, off-roading, and fishing on a typical weekend. However, a nutritionist by profession, he is also passionate about fitness and health through natural means. He writes mostly health-related content for the Scientific Origin.