Top 10 Foods Highest in Vitamin D
Vitamin D is an essential vitamin required by the body for the proper absorption of calcium, bone development, control of cell growth, neuromuscular functioning, proper immune functioning, and alleviation of inflammation. A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to rickets, a disease in which bones fail to properly develop. Further, inadequate levels of vitamin D can lead to a weakened immune system, increased cancer risk, poor hair growth, and osteomalacia, a condition of weakened muscles and bones. Conversely, excess vitamin D can cause the body to absorb too much calcium, leading to increased risk of heart attack and kidney stones. The current U.S. DV for vitamin D is 600 IU (international units) and the toxicity threshold for vitamin D is thought to be 10,000 to 40,000 IU/day.2 Vitamin D is oil soluble, which means you need to eat fat to absorb it. It is naturally found mainly in fish oils, fatty fish, and to a lesser extent in beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, and certain mushrooms. Vitamin D is also naturally made by your body when you expose your skin to the sun, and thus, is called the sun-shine vitamin. In addition, vitamin D is widely added to many foods such as milk and orange juice, and can also simply be consumed as a supplement. Below is a list of high vitamin D foods.
#1: Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil has been a popular supplement for many years and naturally contains very high levels of vitamin A and vitamin D. Cod liver oil provides 10001IU (1667% DV) per 100 gram serving, or 1360IU (340% DV) in a single tablespoon.
Various types of fish are high in vitamin D. Typically raw fish contains more vitamin D than cooked, and fatty cuts will contain more than lean cuts. Further, fish canned in oil will have more vitamin D than those canned in water. Raw fish is typically eaten in the form of sushi. Raw Atlantic Herring provides the most vitamin D with 1628IU (271% DV) per 100 gram serving, 2996IU (499% DV) per fillet, and 456IU (76% DV) per ounce. It is followed by Pickled Herring with 680IU (113% DV) per 100g serving, Canned Salmon (127% DV), Raw Mackerel (60% DV), Oil Packed Sardines (45% DV), Canned Mackerel (42% DV), and oil packed Tuna (39% DV).
#3: Fortified Cereals
A breakfast staple in the Americas, most commercial cereals are fortified with the essential vitamins and nutrients. Exercise caution and check food labels when purchasing cereals, be sure to pick products that have little or no refined sugars, and no partially hydrogenated oils! Fortified cereals can provide up to 342IU (57% DV) per 100 gram serving (~2 cups), and even more if combined with fortified dairy products or fortified soy milk. Products vary widely so be sure to check the nutrition label before buying.
In addition to vitamin D, Oysters are a great source of vitamin b12, zinc, iron, manganese, selenium, and copper. Oysters are also high in cholesterol and should be eaten in moderation by people at risk of heart disease or stroke. Raw wild caught Eastern Oysters provide 320IU (80% DV) per 100 gram serving, 269IU (67% DV) in six medium oysters.
#5: Caviar (Black and Red)
Caviar is a common ingredient in sushi and more affordable than people think. Caviar provides 232IU (58% DV) of vitamin D per 100 gram serving, or 37.1IU (9% DV) per teaspoon.
#6: Fortified Soy Products (Tofu and Soy Milk)
Fortified soy products are often fortified with both vitamin D and calcium. Fortified Tofu can provide up to 157IU (39% DV) of vitamin D per 100 gram serving, or 44IU (11% DV) per ounce. Fortified Soy Milk can provide up to 49IU (12% DV) of vitamin D per 100 gram serving, 119IU (30% DV) per cup. Amounts of vitamin D vary widely between products, so be sure to check nutrition facts for vitamin D content.
#7: Salami, Ham, and Sausages
Salami, Ham, and Sausages are a good source of vitamin b12, and copper. Unfortunately, they are also high in cholesterol and sodium, and so should be limited by people at risk of hypertension, heart attack, and stroke. Salami provides 62.0IU (16% DV) of vitamin D per 100 gram serving, or 16.7IU (4% DV) per ounce (3 slices). It is followed by Bologna Pork 56IU (9% DV) per 100 grams, and Bratwurst 44IU (7% DV) per 100 gram serving.
#8: Fortified Dairy Products
Dairy products are already high in calcium, so it makes sense to fortify them with vitamin D. Milk can provide up to 52.0IU (13% DV) of vitamin D per 100 gram serving, 127IU (32% DV) per cup. Cheese can provide up to 6.6IU (2% DV) in a cubic inch, and butter provides 7.8IU (2% DV) in a single tablespoon. Check nutrition labels for exact amounts.
More than just a high vitamin D food, mushrooms also provide Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) and copper. Lightly cooked white button mushrooms provide the most vitamin D with 27.0IU (7% DV) per 100 gram serving, or 7.6IU (2% DV) per ounce.
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▼ Health Benefits of Vitamin D
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- Osteoporosis Protection - Vitamin D is necessary for the proper absorption of Calcium which strengthens bones and helps to prevent osteoporosis. Vitamin D mainly benefits older adults, people who have difficulty exercising, postmenopausal women, and individuals on long term steroid therapy.3,4
- Decreased Cancer Risk - Vitamin D has been shown to reduce cancer risk, particularly for colon cancer.5-7
▼ People at Risk of a Vitamin D Deficiency
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- Breastfed Infants Who are Not in the Sun - The amount of vitamin D in breast milk depends on the amount of vitamin D in the mother. However, breast-milk typically does not contain adequate amounts of vitamin D. Be sure infants get at least some exposure to the sun (at least 10-20 minutes) to ensure adequate levels of vitamin D.8
- Older Adults - As skin ages it is less and less able to make vitamin D from the sun, so vitamin D has to be attained from foods or supplements.5
- People With Little Sun Exposure on the Skin - Wearing sunscreen, or lots of clothing, hampers the creation of vitamin D from the sun.9,10
- People with Darker Skin - Melanin, a pigment found in skin, reduces the body's ability to manufacture vitamin D from the sun.5
- People who have Problems Absorbing Fat, or are on Extreme Low Fat Diets - Vitamin D is fat soluble, which means it is found in fats, and your body has to be able to digest fats in order for you to absorb the vitamin D.11
- People Who are Obese, or People Who have Had Gastric Bypass Surgery - Excess fat in the body absorbs vitamin D, effectively reducing the amount available for body functions. Those who have undergone bypass surgery are missing part of their upper intestine which hampers Vitamin D absorption.5,13,14
- People Taking Certain Medications
- Steroid Corticosteroid medications used to alleviate inflammation can reduce calcium absorption and impair vitamin D metabolism.15-17
- Weight-loss drugs with orlistat (brand names Xenical® and alliTM) and cholesterol-lowering drugs cholestyramine (brand names Questran®, LoCholest®, and Prevalite®) can reduce the absorption of vitamin D and other fat-soluble vitamins.18,19
- Medicines used to control and stabalize epileptic seizures, particularly phenobarbital and phenytoin (brand name Dilantin®) interferes with Vitamin D and reduces Calcium absorption.20
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- Consuming too much vitmain D from food or supplements can lead to anorexia, weight loss, polyuria, heart arrhythmias, kidney stones, and increased risk of heart attacks.5 Vitamin D cannot reach toxic levels if created naturally from sun exposure.21
- Oysters, Whole Milk, Salami, Cheese, Caviar, and Eggs are high cholesterol foods which should be eaten in moderate amounts and avoided by people at risk of heart disease or stroke.
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▼ Related Articles
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- Nutrition Data.com
- Office of Dietary Supplements - Vitamin D
- Heaney RP. Long-latency deficiency disease: insights from calcium and vitamin D. Am J Clin Nutr 2003;78:912-9.
- LeBoff MS, Kohlmeier L, Hurwitz S, Franklin J, Wright J, Glowacki J. Occult vitamin D deficiency in postmenopausal US women with acute hip fracture. JAMA 1999;251:1505-11.
- Institute of Medicine, Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 2010.
- Davis CD. Vitamin D and cancer: current dilemmas and future research needs. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88:565S-9S.
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- Wagner CL, Greer FR; American Academy of Pediatrics Section on Breastfeeding; American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Nutrition. Prevention of rickets and vitamin D deficiency in infants, children, and adolescents. Pediatrics 2008;122:1142-1152.
- Webb AR, Kline L, Holick MF. Influence of season and latitude on the cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D3: Exposure to winter sunlight in Boston and Edmonton will not promote vitamin D3 synthesis in human skin. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1988;67:373-8.
- Webb AR, Pilbeam C, Hanafin N, Holick MF. An evaluation of the relative contributions of exposure to sunlight and of diet to the circulating concentrations of 25-hydroxyvitamin D in an elderly nursing home population in Boston. Am J Clin Nutr 1990;51:1075-81.
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- Malone M. Recommended nutritional supplements for bariatric surgery patients. Ann Pharmacother 2008;42:1851-8.
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- Buckley LM, Leib ES, Cartularo KS, Vacek PM, Cooper SM. Calcium and vitamin D3 supplementation prevents bone loss in the spine secondary to low-dose corticosteroids in patients with rheumatoid arthritis. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Ann Intern Med 1996;125:961-8.
- Lukert BP, Raisz LG. Glucocorticoid-induced osteoporosis: pathogenesis and management. Ann Intern Med 1990;112:352-64.
- de Sevaux RGL, Hoitsma AJ, Corstens FHM, Wetzels JFM. Treatment with vitamin D and calcium reduces bone loss after renal transplantation: a randomized study. J Am Soc Nephrol 2002;13:1608-14.
- McDuffie JR, Calis KA, Booth SL, Uwaifo GI, Yanovski JA. Effects of orlistat on fat-soluble vitamins in obese adolescents. Pharmacotherapy 2002;22:814-22.
- Compston JE, Horton LW. Oral 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 in treatment of osteomalacia associated with ileal resection and cholestyramine therapy. Gastroenterology 1978;74:900-2.
- Gough H, Goggin T, Bissessar A, Baker M, Crowley M, Callaghan N. A comparative study of the relative influence of different anticonvulsant drugs, UV exposure and diet on vitamin D and calcium metabolism in outpatients with epilepsy. Q J Med 1986;59:569-77.
- Jones G. Pharmacokinetics of vitamin D toxicity. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88:582S-6S.