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Vitamin D in Food

All HOMED-IQ content is reviewed by medical specialists

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that is particularly important for bone health, the immune system, and mental well-being. The human body can produce most of its required vitamin D with the help of sunlight. However, this is particularly difficult in certain regions of the world during the darker winter months, where sunlight is scarce. But did you know that vitamin D is also found in food? Although the amount of vitamin D in food is relatively small and in most cases does not cover all your daily requirements, eating foods high in vitamin D does make a positive contribution to your overall levels. This article will summarize the foods highest in vitamin D, as well as how much vitamin D most people need. 

Why is vitamin D so important?

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient in keeping our body healthy and functioning normally. It helps strengthen the immune system, maintain and grow bones and muscles, and could help regulate our mood. Many people are unaware of how important this vitamin really is, and symptoms of deficiency can easily go unnoticed. Vitamin D deficiency can cause a loss of bone density, leading to bone pain and conditions like osteoporosis. It can also cause muscle pain and fatigue, or mood changes like depression. It is also suspected that vitamin D plays a role in the immune system and anti-inflammatory action in the body. As such, vitamin D deficiency has been linked to chronic inflammation, a condition that can increase the risk of specific diseases such as heart disease, arthritis, and asthma. Do you also have low vitamin D levels? Find out with Homed-IQ’s Vitamin D Test.

Daily requirement of vitamin D

How much vitamin D do you actually need each day? As with other nutrients, your daily requirement depends on your age. Therefore, seniors need twice as much vitamin D as newborns. The recommended daily intake of vitamin D is measured in micrograms (µg).

AgeRecommended Amount
Newborns (0 – 12 months)10 µg
Children (1 – 13 years)15 µg
Youth (14 – 18 years)15 µg
Adults (19 – 70 years)15 µg
Seniors (71 years and older)20 µg

Would you like to read more about your daily vitamin D requirements or the symptoms and ways to treat a deficiency? Check out our article “Vitamin D Deficiency: Symptoms and Treatment”!

Foods high in vitamin D

Although it’s difficult to get all required vitamin D from food alone, the consumption of vitamin D-rich foods contributes to your overall levels and is smart to include in your diet. This is especially important in the fall and winter when sunlight is more scarce. But what foods contain high amounts of vitamin D? Vitamin D is primarily found in animal products, which means people who regularly consume meat, fish or dairy can obtain respectable amounts of vitamin D through diet. As non-animal products are much lower in vitamin D, several common food products are fortified with vitamin D to ensure those who do not eat animal products can get sufficient amounts of this vitamin. People who do not eat many sources of vitamin D may also consider alternatives like vitamin D supplements.

The following animal products are high in vitamin D:

  • Fatty fish (tuna, salmon, herring, mackerel, sardines)
  • Dairy products
  • Liver
  • Eggs

Although non-animal products are largely lower in vitamin D than animal products, certain non-animal products are rich in vitamin D. Plant-based foods with a relatively high vitamin D content include:

  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified margarine
  • Avocados
  • Fortified plant milks (soy, almond, etc)
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Fortified breakfast cereals

To demonstrate the relationship between the vitamin D content in plant and animal products, see the vitamin D content per 100g for animal and plant products below.

Animal ProductVitamin D in µg per 100 g
Salmon16.00
Sardines4.83
Egg yolk5.45
Plant ProductVitamin D in µg per 100 g
Chanterelle Mushrooms2.1
Fortified margarine6.8
Avocado3.43

Vitamin D supplements 

Supplements are an easy way for people that don’t get enough vitamin D through their diet and/or sunlight exposure to meet their needs. However, it is important to pay attention to the amount that you consume, and not to exceed recommended dosages. Although vitamin D is important for our health, consuming too much can cause health problems rather than make us feel better. To learn more about the dangers of vitamin D overdose, feel free to check out our article “How Much Vitamin D Is Too Much?” Furthermore, consider performing a vitamin D test or speaking to your doctor before starting to take vitamin D supplements.

References

R. (2022, July 12). Deficiency in winter – what exactly is vitamin D and what is it good for? stuttgarter-nachrichten.de. Retrieved July 15, 2022, from https://www.stuttgarter-nachrichten.de/inhalt.vitamin-d-ueber-lebensmittel-aufhnen.140a83a8-f171-430b-a2ab-8a73430bf75d.html

Editor of health portal. (2020, July 27). Vitamin D – needs, sources and deficiency. Health portal Austria. Retrieved on July 15, 2022 from https://www.gesundheit.gv.at/leben/ernaehrung/vitamin-mineralstoffe/fettloesliche-vitamine/vitamin-d.html

Warneck, L. (2017, December 14). Why vitamin D is so important! DW.COM. Retrieved July 15, 2022, from https://www.dw.com/de/warum-vitamin-d-so-important-ist/a-41792161

About the Author

Lauren Dobischok

Lauren is a health scientist and science communicator living in the Netherlands. She has completed a Research Master in Health Sciences at Erasmus University Rotterdam’s Netherlands Institute for Health Sciences (NIHES) with a specialization in epidemiology, and a B.Sc. in Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University. With a background in public health, her goal is to create accurate scientific content that is easy to understand and enables people to make informed decisions. Within Homed-IQ, Lauren serves as Product Developer and Content Lead, working closely with medical doctors and medical device scientists on Homed-IQ’s new products and written communications.