Vitamin D Rich Foods: Can You Get Enough Through Your Diet?

Vitamin D is a secosteroid created by the skin when exposed to sunlight, and is necessary for bone health. This is the primary way of getting it, and food sources are not very common. However, there are several vitamin D rich foods that will get you a good dose,and with regular sunlight exposure (though not too much!) you will have more than enough vitamin D.

By far, the richest source of vitamin D is cod liver oil. This is an omega 3 supplement sold over the counter, and provides about 1300 or more IU per tablespoon. Since the recommended daily allowance is 600, this is more than enough. However, the problem with cod liver oil is that it also contains excessive amounts of vitamin A, well over the RDA for it, and this can build up in the body and cause liver damage, hair loss, and bone problems. As a result, it is probably best to not use cod liver oil on a daily basis. There are better food sources than this.

The fatty fishes, such as tuna, salmon, and mackerel, are also vitamin D rich foods, and among the best you can get. Tuna and salmon each contain around 400 IU for a sixth of a pound; one of these daily will typically get you enough vitamin D, plus omega 3 fatty acids which are well known for reducing the risk of heart disease. Mackerel contains about half the amount of tuna and salmon.

If you are a vegetarian, your best bet is to go with mushrooms that have been exposed to ultravioet light. Mushrooms are fungus and thus typically grown in dark and moist soil, but research has shown that brief exposure to UV light can raise the vitamin D content from pitiful (around 15 IU) to very high (well over 400 IU). So opt for UV mushrooms to get a rich source of vitamin D if you want to avoid animal food.

And finally, the most common vitamin D rich food sources are those that are fortified. Milk and breakfast cereals typically have vitamin D added during the manufacturing process, a process added after an epidemic of rickets in the early 20th Century.

Just eating a typical diet, with a good selection of milk, cereal, and fatty fish (which you should consume more of anyway) will typically get you enough vitamin D from food, and as long as you get a bit of sunlight exposure a few times per week (say, 20 minutes each time), you will get more than enough vitamin D.