Best vitamin d sources

Contents

7 Healthy Foods That Are High in Vitamin D

Vitamin D is the only nutrient your body produces when exposed to sunlight.

However, up to 50% of the world’s population may not get enough sun, and 40% of U.S. residents are deficient in vitamin D (1, 2).

This is partly because people spend more time indoors, wear sunblock outside, and eat a Western diet low in good sources of this vitamin.

The recommended daily value (DV) is 800 IU (20 mcg) of vitamin D per day from foods (3).

If you don’t get enough sunlight, your intake should likely be closer to 1,000 IU (25 mcg) per day (4).

Here are 7 healthy foods that are high in vitamin D.

1. Salmon

Salmon is a popular fatty fish and 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 (5).

Whether the salmon is wild or farmed can make a big difference.

On average, wild-caught salmon packs 988 IU of vitamin D per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, or 124% of the DV. Some studies have found even higher levels in wild salmon — up to 1,300 IU per serving (6, 7).

However, farmed salmon contains only 25% of that amount. Still, one serving of farmed salmon provides about 250 IU of vitamin D, or 32% of the DV (6).

Summary Wild salmon contains about 988 IU of vitamin D per serving, while farmed salmon contains 250 IU, on average. That’s 124% and 32% of the DV, respectively.

2. Herring and sardines

Herring is a fish eaten around the world. It can be served raw, canned, smoked, or pickled.

This small fish is also one of the best sources of vitamin D.

Fresh Atlantic herring provides 216 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, which is 27% of the DV (8).

If fresh fish isn’t your thing, pickled herring is also a good source of vitamin D, providing 112 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, or 14% of the DV.

However, pickled herring also contains a high amount of sodium, which some people consume too much of (9).

Canned sardines are a good source of vitamin D as well — one can (3.8 ounces) contains 177 IU, or 22% of the DV (10).

Other types of fatty fish are also good vitamin D sources. Halibut and mackerel provide 384 IU and 360 IU per half a fillet, respectively (11, 12).

Summary Herring contains 216 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.

3. Cod liver oil

Cod liver oil is a popular supplement. If you don’t like fish, taking cod liver oil can be key to obtaining certain nutrients that are unavailable in other sources.

It’s an excellent source of vitamin D — at about 448 IU per teaspoon (4.9 ml), it clocks in at a massive 56% of the DV. It has been used for many years to prevent and treat deficiency in children (13, 14).

Cod liver oil is likewise a fantastic source of vitamin A, with 150% of the DV in just one teaspoon (4.9 ml). However, vitamin A can be toxic in high amounts.

Therefore, be cautious with cod liver oil, making sure to not take too much.

In addition, cod liver oil is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which many people are deficient in.

Summary Cod liver oil contains 448 IU of vitamin D per teaspoon (4.9 ml), or 56% of the DV. It is also high in other nutrients, such as vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids.

4. Canned tuna

Many people enjoy canned tuna because of its flavor and easy storage methods.

It’s also usually cheaper than buying fresh fish.

Canned light tuna packs up to 268 IU of vitamin D in a 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving, which is 34% of the DV.

It’s also a good source of niacin and vitamin K (15).

Unfortunately, canned tuna contains methylmercury, a toxin found in many types of fish. If it builds up in your body, it can cause serious health problems (16).

However, some types of fish pose less risk than others. For instance, light tuna is typically a better choice than white tuna — it’s considered safe to eat up to 6 ounces (170 grams) per week (17).

Summary Canned tuna contains 268 IU of vitamin D per serving. Choose light tuna and eat 6 ounces (170 grams) or less per week to prevent methylmercury buildup.

5. Egg yolks

People who don’t eat fish should know that 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 white, the fat, vitamins, and minerals are found mostly in the yolk.

One typical egg yolk contains 37 IU of vitamin D, or 5% of the DV (7, 24).

Vitamin D levels in egg yolk depend on sun exposure and the vitamin D content of chicken feed. When given the same feed, pasture-raised chickens that roam outside in the sunlight produce eggs with levels 3–4 times higher (25).

Additionally, eggs from chickens given vitamin-D-enriched feed may have up to 6,000 IU of vitamin D per yolk. That’s a whopping 7 times the DV (26).

Choosing eggs either from chickens raised outside or marketed as high in vitamin D can be a great way to meet your daily requirements.

Summary Eggs from commercially raised hens contain only about 37 IU of vitamin D per yolk. However, eggs from hens raised outside or fed vitamin-D-enriched feed contain much higher levels.

6. Mushrooms

Excluding fortified foods, mushrooms are the only good plant source of vitamin D.

Like humans, mushrooms can synthesize this vitamin when exposed to UV light (27).

However, mushrooms produce vitamin D2, whereas animals produce vitamin D3.

Though vitamin D2 helps raise blood levels of vitamin D, it may not be as effective as vitamin D3 (28, 29).

Nonetheless, wild mushrooms are excellent sources of vitamin D2. In fact, some varieties pack up to 2,300 IU per 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving — nearly three times the DV (30).

On the other hand, commercially grown mushrooms are often grown in the dark and contain very little D2.

However, certain brands are treated with ultraviolet (UV light). These mushrooms can provide 130–450 IU of vitamin D2 per 3.5 ounces (100 grams) (31).

Summary Mushrooms can synthesize vitamin D2 when exposed to UV light. Only wild mushrooms or mushrooms treated with UV light are good sources of vitamin D.

7. Fortified foods

Natural sources of vitamin D are limited, especially if you’re vegetarian or don’t like fish.

Fortunately, some food products that don’t naturally contain vitamin D are fortified with this nutrient.

Cow’s milk

Cow’s milk, the most commonly consumed type of milk, is naturally a good source of many nutrients, including calcium, phosphorous, and riboflavin (32).

In several countries, cow’s milk is fortified with vitamin D. It usually contains about 115–130 IU per cup (237 ml), or about 15–22% of the DV (7, 33).

Soy milk

Because vitamin D is found almost exclusively in animal products, vegetarians and vegans are at a particularly high risk of not getting enough (34).

For this reason, plant-based milk substitutes like soy milk are often fortified with this nutrient and other vitamins and minerals usually found in cow’s milk.

One cup (237 ml) typically contains 107–117 IU of vitamin D, or 13–15% of the DV (35, 36).

Orange juice

Around 75% of people worldwide are lactose intolerant, and another 2–3% have a milk allergy (37, 38).

For this reason, some countries fortify orange juice with vitamin D and other nutrients, such as calcium (39).

One cup (237 ml) of fortified orange juice with breakfast can start your day off with up to 100 IU of vitamin D, or 12% of the DV (40).

Cereal and oatmeal

Certain cereals and instant oatmeal are also fortified with vitamin D.

Half a cup (78 grams) of these foods can provide 54–136 IU, or up to 17% of the DV (41, 42).

Though fortified cereals and oatmeal provide less vitamin D than many natural sources, they can still be a good way to boost your intake.

Summary Foods such as cow’s milk, soy milk, orange juice, cereals, and oatmeal are sometimes fortified with vitamin D. These contain 54–136 IU per serving.

Vitamin D and calcium

Vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium, which plays a key role in maintaining bone strength and skeletal integrity (43).

Getting enough of both vitamin D and calcium is crucial to maintaining bone health and protecting against disorders like osteoporosis, a condition that is characterized by weak, brittle bones (44).

Children and adults aged 1–70 need approximately 600 IU of vitamin D per day, and it can come from a combination of food sources and sunlight. Meanwhile, adults over 70 should aim for at least 800 IU (20 mcg) of vitamin D per day (45).

The daily value (DV), a rating system used on the labels of packaged food, is 800 IU per day.

Calcium needs also vary by age. Children aged 1–8 require about 2,500 mg of calcium daily, and those ages 9–18 need approximately 3,000 mg daily.

Adults ages 19–50 generally require about 2,500 mg daily, which decreases to 2,000 mg daily for those over age 50 (46).

Summary Your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium. This makes getting enough of both vitamin D and calcium crucial to maintaining bone health and preventing osteoporosis.

The bottom line

Spending time in the sun is a good way to get your daily dose of vitamin D. However, sufficient sun exposure is difficult for many people to achieve.

Getting enough from your diet alone may be difficult, but not impossible.

The foods listed in this article are some of the top sources of vitamin D available.

Eating plenty of these vitamin-D-rich foods is a great way to make sure you get enough of this important nutrient.

Vitamin D may be known as the sunshine vitamin, but too few of us think to look for it in the fridge—and that’s a big mistake. “The sun is not strong enough for the body to make vitamin D from October to May, especially for those living north of Atlanta,” says Althea Zanecosky, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. That’s probably why nearly half of people tested at winter’s end had a vitamin D deficiency, according to a University of Maine study. Compounding the problem is our vigilant use of sunscreen; SPF 15 blocks 93% of UVB rays, the type our bodies use to make D. Skin also has a harder time producing vitamin D with age.

Back up: What is vitamin D, and why is it so important?

Your body creates vitamin D on its own after being exposed to sunlight. It helps the body absorb calcium, one of the main building blocks of bones. If you’re low on D, then you’re at increased risk for bone diseases like osteoporosis.

Evidence continues to mount that vitamin D also helps to regulate the immune system, lower blood pressure, protect against depression, and reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and several kinds of cancer. A 2014 study from the University of California-San Diego School of Medicine also found that people with low vitamin D levels were twice as likely to die prematurely.

So, are you getting enough vitamin D?

Probably not. The Institute of Medicine has set the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D at 600 international units (IU) for everyone under the age of 70. (It’s 800 IU for adults 70+.) But many experts believe that’s too low. “There is talk that the RDA may be increased,” says Zanecosky. “Many physicians are now advising 2,000 milligrams daily for those with low blood levels.”

The top vitamin D foods

In a recent nutrient survey, many respondents were rightfully concerned they weren’t getting enough D, with 22% actively looking for it in foods. But just 9% knew that salmon is a good natural source of the vitamin, and only 5% recognized fortified tofu as one, too. Here are some other ways to get more foods with vitamin D in your diet:

Wild-caught fish

(425 IU in 3 oz salmon, 547 IU in 3 oz mackerel)

Ross Woodhall/Getty Images

Beef or calf liver

(42 IU in 3 oz)

Mathias Alvebring/EyeEm/Getty Images

Egg yolks

(41 IU per egg)

Christoph Hetzmannseder/Getty Images

Learn how to get a perfect egg every time:

Canned fish

(154 IU in 3 oz tuna, 270 IU in 3.5 oz sardines)

digicomphoto/Getty Images

Shiitake mushrooms

(40 IU in 1 cup)

Hiroshi Higuchi/Getty Images

Milk: whole, nonfat or reduced fat

(100 IU in 8 oz)

Maria Toutoudaki/Getty Images

Yogurt

(80–100 IUs in 6 oz)

Fotograf?a de eLuVe/Getty Images

Almond milk

(100 IU in 8 oz)

Westend61/Getty Images

Pudding made with milk

(49-60 IUs in ½ cup)

Ezergil/Getty Images

Orange juice

(137 IU in 1 cup)

Tetra Images/Getty Images

Breakfast cereals

(50–100 IUs in 0.75–1 cup)

katesea/Getty Images

Fortified tofu

(80 IU in 3 oz)

Daniela White Images/Getty Images

Oatmeal

(150 IU in 1 packet)

Image Source/Getty Images

Cheese

(40 IU in 1 slice)

Dana M?lle /EyeEm/Getty Images

Eggnog

(123 IU in 8 oz)

katyenka/Getty Images

20 Vitamin D Foods for Strong & Healthy Bones

Vitamin D is crucial for our health as it has many important roles in our organism. Among other things, it is essential for maintaining our bones healthy and strong. It’s interesting that our body is able to produce it when we expose our skin to sunlight. However, we also need to consume vitamin D foods in order to prevent a deficiency in this nutrient. Here, we will provide you with some of the richest sources of this vitamin, so try to include them in your eating plan. Don’t forget that your diet needs to be varied as our body depends on numerous nutrients. To find out more about the roles of other vitamins, take a look at The World of Vitamins infographic provided by our experienced team from MedAlertHelp.org.

What Is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that can be produced by our body when our skin is exposed to ultraviolet rays from sunlight. It is also present in some foods, which should be a part of your diet in order to maintain adequate vitamin D levels in your body. Vitamin D3 (also known as cholecalciferol) is the form made by the skin when exposed to sunlight while vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) can be found in food and used as a dietary supplement. This vitamin has numerous important functions in our organism, such as helping our body to absorb calcium. In addition, it is responsible for maintaining adequate concentrations of calcium and phosphate, which are the key to the health of our bones. It also enables our immune system to function normally.

Vitamin D Benefits

Since vitamin D improves the absorption of calcium and regulates both calcium and phosphate concentrations in our body, it is vital for the normal growth and health of our bones. Therefore, it can prevent softening of bones or osteomalacia in adults and rickets in children. Moreover, it lowers the risk of developing osteoporosis, which is characterized by fragile bones prone to fractures.

There are a number of studies investigating the role of vitamin D in the prevention of some serious medical conditions, including hypertension and glucose intolerance. According to a paper published in 2006, this vitamin may reduce the risk of multiple sclerosis. Another study showed that vitamin D could prevent type 1 diabetes. However, all these findings need to be supported by additional research.

Vitamin D Food Sources

There aren’t many foods naturally high in vitamin D. Some of the richest sources of this nutrient are fish liver oils and fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna fish. That’s why some food products are fortified with vitamin D. For example, milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereals are often enriched with this vitamin. Considering all the health benefits of this nutrient, it’s of great importance to include it in our diet. So let’s see what foods are high in vitamin D.

Cod Liver Oil

Cod liver oil is one of the best sources of this nutrient vital to our health. Just one tablespoon of this oil contains 340% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin D. In addition, it is an amazing source of vitamin A.

Swordfish

Many types of fish, such as swordfish, belong to vitamin D rich foods. Three ounces of cooked swordfish provide you with 142% of the recommended value of this vitamin. This sort of fish is also high in niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. Moreover, it’s an excellent source of selenium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Sockeye Salmon

Another type of fish rich in vitamin D is sockeye salmon. A three-ounce serving of cooked salmon gives you 112% of your DV of this vitamin. This fatty fish is also a great source of vitamin B12, niacin, and thiamin. In addition to being rich in omega-3 fatty acids, sockeye salmon is packed with numerous minerals, including selenium and phosphorus.

Tuna Fish

Tuna fish is also one of the foods high in vitamin D. In three ounces of canned tuna, you will get 39% of your daily needs of this vitamin. Furthermore, this type of fish is rich in B vitamins, including niacin, vitamin B12, and vitamin B6. Among other minerals, it contains selenium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Sardines

Sardines are packed with various vitamins and minerals, so it’s a good idea to include them in your eating plan. Two sardines serve 12% of the recommended daily value of vitamin D. They are also a very good source of vitamin B12, niacin, and riboflavin. What’s more, they can provide you with a great amount of selenium, phosphorus, and calcium.

Atlantic Mackerel

If you eat one fillet of Atlantic mackerel, you will cover 101% of your daily needs of vitamin D. Besides being one of the foods rich in vitamin D, this type of fish is high in vitamin B12, niacin, and vitamin B6. It’s also a great source of selenium, phosphorus, and magnesium.

Rainbow Trout

Rainbow trout is another excellent source of vitamin D. In one rainbow trout fillet, you will get 67% of your DV of this nutrient. In addition, this fish is rich in vitamin B12, niacin, and thiamin. When it comes to minerals, trout is a good source of manganese and phosphorus.

Atlantic Herring

Atlantic herring is one of the great sources of vitamin D since one fillet of Atlantic herring serves 39% of the recommended daily value of this vitamin. Furthermore, it is a rich source of riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.

Atlantic Cod

Atlantic cod is another fish loaded with vitamins and minerals. In one fillet of this fish, you will get 25% of your DV of vitamin D. Moreover, it will provide you with thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. Atlantic cod is also rich in selenium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Haddock

Haddock has a mild taste so even people who don’t prefer fish can easily add it to their diet. One fillet of cooked haddock contains 5% of your daily value of vitamin D. Besides belonging to the foods with vitamin D, this type of fish is high in niacin, vitamin B12, selenium, and phosphorus.

Whitefish

Whitefish is also a great source of vitamin D. A three-ounce serving of this fish provides you with 51% of your DV of this vitamin. Moreover, it is rich in niacin, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12. Whitefish is an excellent source of various minerals as well since it contains phosphorus, selenium, and potassium.

Sturgeon

Sturgeon offers a number of health benefits as it’s a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals. Three ounces of cooked sturgeon can cover up to 55% of your daily needs of vitamin D. In addition to being one of the foods that have vitamin D, this fish is high in niacin, vitamin B12, and phosphorus.

Beef Liver

Besides fish, some types of meat also contain a certain amount of vitamin D. For example, three ounces of cooked beef liver have 11% of the recommended daily value of this vitamin. What’s more, this type of meat is an amazing source of B vitamins, including riboflavin and vitamin B12.

Eggs

One large egg contains 10% of your DV of vitamin D. Since there aren’t many vitamin D sources that vegetarians can eat, they should definitely include eggs in their eating plan. Moreover, this animal product is an amazing source of other vitamins and minerals as well.

Fortified Milk

One cup of milk can cover around 30% of your daily value of vitamin D as this nutrient is normally added to this food product. Milk is also a great source of riboflavin, vitamin B12, calcium, and phosphorus.

Yogurt

Yogurt is also usually enriched with vitamin D, so we can add it to this vitamin D foods list. Depending on the brand, this dairy product provides different amounts of this important nutrient. It is highly nutritious as it contains various B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus, and other minerals.

Margarine

Margarine has a similar taste like butter, but it’s made from vegetable oils. One tablespoon of fortified margarine can cover 15% of your DV of vitamin D. Margarine is not generally rich in vitamins, but it contains vitamin A and vitamin E.

Cheddar Cheese

Cheddar cheese is another source of vitamin D suitable for vegetarians. One cup of diced cheddar cheese has 4% of your daily value of this vitamin. It’s also a great source of vitamin A, riboflavin, and numerous minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.

Fortified Cereals

There is a very limited choice of vitamin D foods vegan people can eat as this vitamin is not naturally present in fruit and vegetables. Fortunately, some food products are enriched with vitamin D, including fortified breakfast cereals. However, the amount of the vitamin they provide differs among brands, so you need to read the label carefully.

Orange Juice

Vitamin D is also added to orange juice, which is practically the only fruit product rich in this vitamin. Again you should check product labels to find out how much vitamin D has been added.

Recommended Daily Intake

The recommended daily values for all the nutrients are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes, which was developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB). The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for vitamin D are based on the daily requirements of healthy people. Since people produce different amounts of this vitamin under the influence of sunlight, these values were established for minimal sun exposure.

So if you’ve been looking for the answer to the question “How much vitamin D should I take?”, you should know that this depends on your age and sex. The RDAs for this vitamin are presented below:

  • From birth to 12 months – 10 mcg (400 IU)
  • From 1 to 70 years – 15 mcg (600 IU)
  • 70+ years – 20 mcg (800 IU)

The RDAs for vitamin D are given in both International Units (IU) and micrograms (mcg), where 1 mcg is equal to 40 IU.

Vitamin D Deficiency

A deficiency in vitamin D is usually the result of an inadequate diet lacking foods rich in this nutrient or insufficient sunlight exposure. For example, people who are allergic to milk, have lactose intolerance or follow a vegan diet are more likely to develop this kind of deficiency. It can also be caused by some medical conditions when the kidneys are not able to transform vitamin D from food or sunlight into its active form or when the absorption of this vitamin is impaired.

Low levels of vitamin D may cause rickets and osteomalacia. Rickets in children is characterized by soft bones and skeletal deformities. Thanks to adding vitamin D to milk and using vitamin supplements, this disease has become rare. Some of the symptoms that adults can experience if they have low levels of vitamin D include bone pain and muscle weakness. This condition can lead to osteomalacia or soft bones.

Who Should Take a Vitamin D Supplement?

Supplements are recommended to those who can’t obtain enough vitamin D from food or sunlight exposure. Since human milk doesn’t provide a sufficient amount of this vitamin, breastfed infants need to receive vitamin D supplements. Furthermore, the elderly tend to have lower levels of vitamin D as their skin loses the ability to produce vitamin D efficiently. In addition, they usually spend less time outdoors. Other people who also spend most of their time indoors or who wear clothes that cover most of their skin are at higher risk of developing a deficiency in vitamin D.

People with dark skin should eat more foods with this nutrient or take supplements as their skin have a reduced ability to synthesize vitamin D. Moreover, some medical conditions, such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease, decrease the absorption of dietary fat and consequently, people with these conditions may have lower concentrations of vitamin D, which is fat-soluble. Another group at risk of becoming deficient in vitamin D includes obese people or those who have undergone gastric bypass surgery. So, depending on your diet and sunlight exposure, you should find the best vitamin D supplement for you.

Vitamin D Side Effects

High intakes of vitamin D can cause adverse health effects and may even be toxic. The symptoms of vitamin D toxicity include weight loss, anorexia, and heart arrhythmias. An excessive amount of vitamin D may also damage the heart, blood vessels, and kidneys as it can increase calcium levels in the blood. That’s why the FNB established Tolerable Upper Intake Levels for this nutrient.

While high doses of supplements can lead to toxicity, it is unlikely that consuming too much food with this vitamin can cause negative effects. Also, vitamin D toxicity is not caused by excessive sun exposure. Therefore, if you need dietary supplements, you should stick to the vitamin D dosage prescribed by your physician.

Conclusion

Vitamin D is of great importance to our health. It is responsible for maintaining our bones and teeth strong and healthy. In addition, it contributes to the normal functioning of our immune system. Since there aren’t many foods naturally rich in this vitamin, certain food products are fortified with vitamin D. Fortunately, our body is able to synthesize this vitamin when our skin is exposed to sunlight. However, many people need to take supplements as their diet doesn’t provide them with a sufficient amount of vitamin D or their exposure to sunlight is limited. On the other hand, too much vitamin D can also be harmful to our health, so never take dietary supplements without consulting with your doctor.

FAQs

What is vitamin D good for?

Vitamin D is essential for a number of processes in our body, and therefore it has numerous health benefits. Since it contributes to the regulation of calcium and phosphate levels, it is crucial for the growth and health of our bones. Vitamin D may prevent rickets, osteomalacia, and osteoporosis. In addition, it is responsible for the normal functioning of our immune system. This vitamin has also been related to the prevention of some serious medical conditions, such as hypertension, multiple sclerosis, and glucose intolerance, but more research should be done to examine the role of vitamin D in preventing these conditions.

How can I increase my vitamin D level?

Vitamin D is not found in as many different foods as some other vitamins. Fortunately, our body can produce this vitamin when we expose our skin to sunlight. This way, we can obtain a great amount of vitamin D. The richest sources of this important nutrient are various types of fish and fish oil. Moreover, it is added to some food products, such as cereals and dairy products. If your diet doesn’t provide you with a sufficient amount of vitamin D, you should consult with your physician about vitamin supplements. However, be careful as taking high doses of vitamin D can have adverse effects on your health.

What happens if vitamin D is low?

Low levels of vitamin D cause rickets in children. This medical condition affects bone development and can even lead to skeletal deformities. On the other hand, adults who are deficient in this vitamin may experience bone pain and muscle weakness as typical symptoms of vitamin D insufficiency. They are also at risk of developing osteomalacia, which is characterized by soft and weak bones.

How do you treat low vitamin D levels?

It is recommended to include more vitamin D-rich foods in your eating plan. However, diet alone is usually not enough for the treatment of low levels of this vitamin as there aren’t many sources that have a high content of vitamin D. Therefore, you should turn to vitamin supplements in order to raise the level of this nutrient. It’s important that you always take dietary supplements according to your doctor’s advice.

What is a good source for vitamin D?

The best sources of this vitamin are fish liver oils and various types of fish. Fatty fish are particularly rich in this vitamin, such as tuna and salmon. Other types of food contain little or no vitamin D, so some food products, such as milk, cereals, and orange juice, are usually enriched with this vitamin.

Which fruit contains vitamin D?

Unfortunately, there isn’t any fruit rich in vitamin D. Generally, there aren’t many vitamin D foods that naturally contain this vitamin. The only fruit product that you can consume in order to increase the concentration of this important nutrient is fortified orange juice.

Calcium and vitamin D are essential to building strong, dense bones when you’re young and to keeping them strong and healthy as you age. The information included here will help you learn all about calcium and vitamin D – the two most important nutrients for bone health.

What is Calcium and What Does it Do?

A calcium-rich diet (including dairy, nuts, leafy greens and fish) helps to build and protect your bones.

Calcium is a mineral that is necessary for life. In addition to building bones and keeping them healthy, calcium enables our blood to clot, our muscles to contract, and our heart to beat. About 99% of the calcium in our bodies is in our bones and teeth.

Every day, we lose calcium through our skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine and feces. Our bodies cannot produce its own calcium. That’s why it’s important to get enough calcium from the food we eat. When we don’t get the calcium our body needs, it is taken from our bones. This is fine once in a while, but if it happens too often, bones get weak and easier to break.

Too many Americans fall short of getting the amount of calcium they need every day and that can lead to bone loss, low bone density and even broken bones.

How Much Calcium Do You Need?

The amount of calcium you need every day depends on your age and sex.

Women
Age 50 & younger 1,000 mg* daily
Age 51 & older 1,200 mg* daily

Men
Age 70 & younger 1,000 mg* daily
Age 71 & older 1,200 mg* daily

*This includes the total amount of calcium you get from food and supplements.

How Much Calcium Do You Eat?

Use the International Osteoporosis Foundation’s Calcium Calculator to find out.

Sources of Calcium

Calcium-Rich Food Sources

Food is the best source of calcium. Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese are high in calcium. Certain green vegetables and other foods contain calcium in smaller amounts. Some juices, breakfast foods, soymilk, cereals, snacks, breads and bottled water have added calcium. If you drink soymilk or another liquid that is fortified with calcium, be sure to shake the container well as calcium can settle to the bottom.

A simple way to add calcium to many foods is to add a single tablespoon of nonfat powdered milk, which contains about 50 mg of calcium. It is easy to add a few tablespoons to almost any recipe.

Reading Food Labels – How Much Calcium Am I Getting?

To determine how much calcium is in a particular food, check the nutrition facts panel for the daily value (DV). Food labels list calcium as a percentage of the DV. This amount is based on 1,000 mg of calcium per day. For example:

  • 30% DV of calcium equals 300 mg of calcium.
  • 20% DV of calcium equals 200 mg of calcium.
  • 15% DV of calcium equals 150 mg of calcium.

Calcium Supplements

The amount of calcium you need from a supplement depends on how much you get from food. Try to get the daily amount recommended from food and only supplement as needed to make up any shortfall. In general, you shouldn’t take supplements that you don’t need. If you get enough calcium from foods, don’t take a supplement. There is no added benefit to taking more calcium than you need. Doing so may even carry some risks.

Calcium supplements are available without a prescription in a wide range of preparations (including chewable and liquid) and in different amounts. The best supplement is the one that meets your needs for convenience, cost, and availability. When choosing a supplement, keep the following in mind:

  • Choose brand-name supplements with proven reliability. Look for labels that state “purified” or have the USP (United States Pharmacopeia) symbol. The “USP Verified Mark” on the supplement label means that the USP has tested and found the calcium supplement to meet its standards for purity and quality.
  • Read the product label carefully to determine the amount of elemental calcium, which is the actual amount of calcium in the supplement, as well as how many doses or pills you have to take. When reading the label, pay close attention to the “amount per serving” and “serving size.”
  • Calcium is absorbed best when taken in amounts of 500 – 600 mg or less. This is the case for both foods and supplements. Try to get your calcium-rich foods and/or supplements in small amounts throughout the day, preferably with a meal. While it’s not recommended, taking your calcium all at once is better than not taking it at all.
  • Take (most) calcium supplements with food. Eating food produces stomach acid that helps your body absorb most calcium supplements. The one exception to the rule is calcium citrate, which can absorb well when taken with or without food.
  • When starting a new calcium supplement, start with a smaller amount to better tolerate it. When switching supplements, try starting with 200-300 mg every day for a week, and drink an extra 6-8 ounces of water with it. Then gradually add more calcium each week.
  • Side effects from calcium supplements, such as gas or constipation may occur. If increasing fluids in your diet does not solve the problem, try another type or brand of calcium. It may require trial and error to find the right supplement for you, but fortunately there are many choices.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider or pharmacist about possible interactions between prescription or over-the-counter medications and calcium supplements.

What is Vitamin D and What Does it Do?

Vitamin D plays an important role in protecting your bones, both by helping your body absorb calcium and by supporting muscles needed to avoid falls. Children need vitamin D to build strong bones, and adults need it to keep their bones strong and healthy. If you don’t get enough vitamin D, and you’re more likely to break bones as you age.

How Much Vitamin D Do You Need?

Women and Men
Under age 50 400-800 international units (IU) daily**
Age 50 and older 800-1,000 IU daily**

**Some people need more vitamin D. According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the safe upper limit of vitamin D is 4,000 IU per day for most adults.

Sources of Vitamin D

There are three ways to get vitamin D:

  • Sunlight
  • Food
  • Supplements

Sunlight

Your skin makes vitamin D in reaction to sunlight and stores it in fat for later use. How much vitamin D your skin can produce depends on time of day, season, latitude, skin pigmentation, age, and other factors.

There are many reasons people do not have enough vitamin D. As we age, our skin loses its ability to generate vitamin D. People who live in cities or in institutional settings like nursing homes spend too little time outdoors. Even people who spend time outdoors often use sunscreen to prevent skin cancer. Sunscreen with an SPF as low as 8 reduces vitamin D production by 95 percent.

Vitamin D in Food

Vitamin D is found in very few foods. Sources include fatty fish like wild-caught mackerel, salmon, and tuna. Vitamin D is added to milk and other dairy products, orange juice, soymilk, and fortified cereals.

Check the food label to see if vitamin D has been added to a particular product. One eight-ounce serving of milk usually has 25% of the daily value (DV) of vitamin D. The DV is based on a total daily intake of 400 IU of vitamin D. So, a serving of milk with 25% of the DV of vitamin D contains 100 IU.

It is very difficult to get all the vitamin D you need from food alone. Most people must take vitamin D supplements to get enough to support bone health.

Vitamin D Supplements

If you aren’t getting enough vitamin D from sunlight and food, consider taking a supplement. Before adding a vitamin D supplement, check to see if any of the other supplements, multivitamins, or medications you take contain vitamin D. Many calcium supplements also contain vitamin D.

There are two types of vitamin D supplements. They are vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). Both types are good for bone health.

Vitamin D supplements can be taken with or without food and the full amount can be taken at one time. While your body needs vitamin D to absorb calcium, you do not need to take vitamin D at the same time as a calcium supplement. If you need help choosing a vitamin D supplement, ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist to recommend one.

How Much Vitamin D Should You Supplement?

To figure out how much vitamin D you need from a supplement, subtract the total amount of vitamin D you get each day from the recommended total daily amount for your age. For example, a 55-year-old woman who gets 400 IU of vitamin D from her calcium supplement should take between 400 and 600 additional IU of vitamin D to meet the 800 – 1,000 IU recommended for her age.

Vitamin D Deficiency: Are You at Risk?

Vitamin D deficiency occurs when you are not getting the recommended level of vitamin D over time. Certain people are at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency, including:

  • People who spend little time in the sun or those who regularly cover up when outdoors;
  • People living in nursing homes or other institutions or who are homebound;
  • People with certain medical conditions such as Celiac disease and inflammatory bowel disease;
  • People taking medicines that affect vitamin D levels such as certain anti-seizure medicines;
  • People with very dark skin;
  • Obese or very overweight people; and
  • Older adults with certain risk factors.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you have any of these risk factors. If you have osteoporosis and also have a vitamin D deficiency, your healthcare provider may temporarily prescribe a high dose of vitamin D to bring you up to a healthy level.

A Guide to Calcium-Rich Foods

We all know that milk is a great source of calcium, but you may be surprised by all the different foods you can work into your diet to reach your daily recommended amount of calcium. Use the guide below to get ideas of additional calcium-rich foods to add to your weekly shopping list.

Produce Serving Size Estimated Calcium*
Collard greens, frozen 8 oz 360 mg
Broccoli rabe 8 oz 200 mg
Kale, frozen 8 oz 180 mg
Soy Beans, green, boiled 8 oz 175 mg
Bok Choy, cooked, boiled 8 oz 160 mg
Figs, dried 2 figs 65 mg
Broccoli, fresh, cooked 8 oz 60 mg
Oranges 1 whole 55 mg
Seafood Serving Size Estimated Calcium*
Sardines, canned with bones 3 oz 325 mg
Salmon, canned with bones 3 oz 180 mg
Shrimp, canned 3 oz 125 mg
Dairy Serving Size Estimated Calcium*
Ricotta, part-skim 4 oz 335 mg
Yogurt, plain, low-fat 6 oz 310 mg
Milk, skim, low-fat, whole 8 oz 300 mg
Yogurt with fruit, low-fat 6 oz 260 mg
Mozzarella, part-skim 1 oz 210 mg
Cheddar 1 oz 205 mg
Yogurt, Greek 6 oz 200 mg
American Cheese 1 oz 195 mg
Feta Cheese 4 oz 140 mg
Cottage Cheese, 2% 4 oz 105 mg
Frozen yogurt, vanilla 8 oz 105 mg
Ice Cream, vanilla 8 oz 85 mg
Parmesan 1 tbsp 55 mg
Fortified Food Serving Size Estimated Calcium*
Almond milk, rice milk or soy milk, fortified 8 oz 300 mg
Orange juice and other fruit juices, fortified 8 oz 300 mg
Tofu, prepared with calcium 4 oz 205 mg
Waffle, frozen, fortified 2 pieces 200 mg
Oatmeal, fortified 1 packet 140 mg
English muffin, fortified 1 muffin 100 mg
Cereal, fortified 35 8 oz 100-1,000 mg
Other Serving Size Estimated Calcium*
Mac & cheese, frozen 1 package 325 mg
Pizza, cheese, frozen 1 serving 115 mg
Pudding, chocolate, prepared with 2% milk 4 oz 160 mg
Beans, baked, canned 4 oz 160 mg

*The calcium content listed for most foods is estimated and can vary due to multiple factors. Check the food label to determine how much calcium is in a particular product.

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Last Reviewed 02/26/2018

The Top Natural Sources of Vitamin D

Wild-Caught Salmon

The best source of naturally occurring vitamin D is fatty fish. Salmon is a great choice. A 3.5 ounce serving of salmon contains between 360 IU and 1,300 IU according to nutrient databases. Whether it’s wild or farmed also makes a difference. A 2009 study, for example, found that wild-caught salmon contains 988 IU of vitamin D for a 3.5 ounce (300 gram) serving. Farmed salmon is said to have approximately 25% of the vitamin D as wild salmon.

Canned Sardines

In addition to vitamin D, sardines are one of the top sources of omega 3 fatty acids. They contain significant amounts of protein per serving and many important minerals to support your overall health and bone health! Furthermore, they’re also one of the least contaminated (lower on the food chain) and sustainable sources of fish, which is why you’ll commonly see sardines in omega 3 supplements.

Raw Oysters

Not the most appealing food on the list for some, raw oysters are low in calories and high in nutrients. In addition to being a good food source of vitamin D, (six raw oysters contain 269 IU or 67% of your RDI) they also contain vitamin B12, copper, phosphorus, and zinc. Copper, for instance, has been shown to have a positive impact on bone health.

Cod liver oil, a traditional omega 3 fatty acid, and vitamin D supplement have come a long way in taste since it was recommended in the 1960s. But, you still might prefer eating a can of tuna fish or fresh wild salmon instead! Note: most refined cod liver oils today have the vitamin D removed! Check your label to be certain.

Canned Tuna

Canned tuna is widely enjoyed because of its subtle flavor and convenience – as most households have one or two cans of tuna stowed away in their pantry at all times. Use it in sandwiches or salads to reap the benefits of this nutrient-dense food. One hundred grams (about the size of a hockey puck) contains 59% of your RDI vitamin D needs, plus magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium. Worried about heavy metals associated with larger fish, like tuna? A new selenium-containing compound called selenoneine has recently been identified in the bloodstream of tuna that may help explain why fish that contain more selenium than mercury is good for us. Selenoneine increases the rate at which mercury is detoxified and excreted by the fish –and thus their healthful effects on us, when we consume them. In other words, when we maintain healthy essential mineral levels, we are able to resist toxic ones. In fact, our Bone Health Expert Lara Pizzorno eats 1 Brazil nut, which is a selenium-rich food, after a meal that includes any type of fish (or includes it in the meal itself chopped up in a salad or in pesto etc.) as a detoxification method.

Shrimp

A popular type of shellfish that is low in fat compared to the other seafood sources with vitamin D. Four large shrimp contain 11% of your RDI of vitamin D. They also contain vitamin A, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium.

Fortified Foods

Since there are very few natural food sources that have adequate amounts of vitamin D, the solution has been to fortify foods with vitamin D. This began in the 1930s when the vitamin D deficiency disease called rickets was a major public health problem in the US. A milk “fortification” program was put in place, which, to its credit, nearly eliminated the condition. Currently, 98% of the milk supply in the US is fortified with 400 International Units (IU) of vitamin D per quart. Other foods that are commonly fortified with vitamin D include breakfast cereals, fruit juices, bread (in the leavening yeast) and margarine or other veggie spreads. Note: In a 2006 article in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers stipulated that vitamin D2, the variety used to fortify some foods, is inferior to vitamin D3. Other research found this to be because vitamin D2 has markedly lower potency and its effects don’t last nearly as long compared to vitamin D3. Check the label on your foods to see whether they have D3, listed as cholecalciferol, or D2, ergocalciferol.

Caviar

Caviar is a salt-cured roe (fish eggs) that can be eaten fresh or pasteurized. It can be eaten by itself, on crackers or even on scrambled eggs! If you do find yourself eating this delicacy know that black or red caviar contains 37 IU of vitamin D in just one tablespoon.

Egg Yolks

While the protein of an egg is found mostly in the egg white, vitamin D is mostly found in the egg yolk. Conventional egg yolks contain about 5% of your RDI of vitamin D – not high at all. However, free-range eggs have been shown to offer higher levels of vitamin D – as much as four times higher! Other pasture-raised animals like pigs may also produce more vitamin D. Pigs have skin like humans, which can store vitamin D in their fat under their skin. Exposure to sun, in addition to being grass-fed, contributes to pasture-raised animals having better mineral status. For instance, pasture-raised pigs also have 74% more selenium and 300% more vitamin E than conventional pigs, according to Professor Don C. Mahan from Ohio State University.

Mushrooms

Portobello, morel, button, white, and shiitake mushrooms all contain ergosterol, a vitamin D precursor. One cup still only has 13-15 IUs of the vitamin. According to some reports, you can set mushrooms out in the sun to boost their vitamin D content! The UV rays trigger a process called photosynthesis. This process increases Vitamin D levels in sun-exposed mushrooms and humans alike.

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