Vitamin D Deficiency? Top 20 Vitamin D Foods You Have to Try Before Supplements

Vitamin D Deficiency? Top 20 Vitamin D Foods You Have to Try Before Supplements

Vitamin D deficiency is a growing problem in the US and other northern parts of the world where people are less exposed to the sun all year round. It is even estimated that almost 90% of the adult population in the US is somewhat deficient in vitamin D. People living in the US with darker skin, such as the Hispanics, Asians, and Black, have a higher chance of being vitamin D deficient. Those who are overweight and obese are also at risk of vitamin D deficiency. It is also very alarming that this vitamin D deficiency can cause severe illnesses and diseases such as hypertension, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and various infectious diseases. This is the reason why a lot of doctors today are prescribing vitamin D supplements to their patients. Health experts are also recommending vitamin D foods that can help fight the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency.

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What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is different from other vitamins because the body can create most of the vitamin D on its own, rather than relying on food sources. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in the liver and fatty tissues. The increased body fat can absorb the vitamin D and keep it from being used within your body. The human body is designed to convert the sunshine into chemicals that can be used by the body. The cholesterol in your skin converts provitamin D and makes it into a usable vitamin D3 or provitamin D. When vitamin D is inside the body, it becomes a hormone, particularly a secosteroid hormone. Vitamin D is a precursor to a steroid hormone, so it has an effect on the body’s skeletal structure, immunity, blood pressure, brain function, mood, and ability to prevent cancer.

There are actually two types of vitamin D, the vitamin D2, and D3. The type of vitamin D that the body makes is vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 can also come from animal-derived products which are more beneficial and easy to absorb. It is believed that vitamin D3 can be converted up to 500 times faster than vitamin D2, and D3 is four times more effective than D2. Unfortunately, many vitamin D supplements and vitamin D fortified foods contain vitamin D2, which cannot be absorbed or converted by the body.

The Importance of Vitamin D

The Importance of Vitamin D

Do you know why vitamin D is vital for your overall health? Here are some of the top reasons why you should need the sunshine every morning and eat more vitamin D foods.

  • It supports and regulates your immune system
  • Maintains a healthy body weight
  • Maintains normal brain function as you grow older
  • Reduce the risk of developing multiple sclerosis
  • Reduce and minimize the frequency of asthma symptoms
  • Reduce the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis in women

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

Your usual source of vitamin D is from sunlight exposure. When the UV rays hit the skin, your skin begins to make vitamin D. This means that majority of the people experiencing symptoms of vitamin D deficiency is caused by their indoor lifestyle and lack of sun exposure.


Most often, it is difficult to identify the common symptoms because they are vague, such as tiredness, and aches and pains. Here are the symptoms that you may have to look out for when you think that you are not getting enough sunshine and vitamin D.

  • Pain in your bones
  • Overall weakness and tiredness
  • Getting frequent infections
  • Difficulty in moving around

It is important to know that some people may not experience these symptoms even if they are already vitamin D deficient. If Vitamin D deficiency is not treated early, it can also lead to serious chronic diseases such as:

  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Autism
  • Cold & flu
  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Diabetes 1 and 2
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Eczema and Psoriasis
  • Hearing loss
  • Cystic Fibrosis
  • Muscle Pain
  • Obesity
  • Pre-Eclampsia
  • Osteoporosis
  • Macular degeneration
  • A migraine
  • Insomnia
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease
  • Infertility
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Schizophrenia
  • Seizures

As you can see, there are so many diseases that are associated with vitamin D deficiency. The only way to know that you are vitamin D deficient is to consult your doctor and find out your vitamin D level. Here are the numbers to check when doing your blood test for your vitamin D level.

If the result shows 50 and above, it means you have a good level of vitamin D. If the result shows 30 to 50, you will need to take a vitamin D supplement and you should have more sun exposure. You will also need to add more vitamin D foods to your diet. If the result shows below 30, then you are very deficient and you definitely need to improve your vitamin D level immediately

Health Benefits of Vitamin D

It is important to get your morning dose of sunshine at least twice a week. Don’t overdo your sun exposure and limit the time to only 15 minutes in the morning. If you are living in a place where there is not enough sunlight, you can increase your intake of vitamin D foods and high-quality vitamin D supplements. Here are some of the health benefits that you can get when you take vitamin D regularly.


Improve Bone Health

You need vitamin D to improve the calcium absorption into your bones. The vitamin D in your body is converted to Calcitrol, which then works with the parathyroid hormone to maintain your calcium levels. Vitamin D deficiency can result in the softening of the bones called osteomalacia, or lead to bone abnormality called rickets. It can also increase the risk of developing osteoporosis and frequent bone fractures. Here are other benefits of vitamin D for your bone health:

  • Slows down the aging of the skeletal structure
  • Reduce the rate of fractures for old adults over 65
  • Improved strength
  • Strengthens bones and properly mineralize bone density

Manage Blood Sugar Levels and Prevent Diabetes

Vitamin D can prevent diabetes because it can help maintain insulin secretion. Diabetes results from inadequate insulin secretion following increases in insulin resistance. There are several studies that support vitamin D as being effective in preventing and managing both diabetes type 1 and 2.

Lowers the Risk of Heart Disease

Several studies have suggested that vitamin D deficiency is closely linked to cardiovascular disease. Since vitamin D is involved in regulating blood pressure, inflammation, and cholesterol levels, there is a very strong possibility that vitamin D deficiency can lead to heart diseases. People who are vitamin D deficient are more likely to suffer from coronary heart disease and other related health problems.

Better Weight Management

People who are vitamin D deficient are mostly overweight or suffer from obesity. A study has indicated that women who have higher levels of vitamin D were capable of losing more weight than the others who have lower vitamin D levels. If you are having difficulty in losing your weight, you can have your vitamin D level checked.

Lowers the Risk of Cancer

Several studies have suggested that healthy levels of vitamin D can reduce the risk of cancer, especially colon and breast cancer. The reason behind this is probably because vitamin D has a huge role in the cell life cycle and its ability to block excess estrogen.

Enhance the Immune System

It’s been proven that vitamin D can prevent prolonged or excessive inflammatory responses. Inflammation is the usual cause of many chronic diseases and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, irritable bowel syndrome, and other digestive problems. Vitamin D also helps in replicating healthy cells and it may have a role in preventing the development of colds and flu and other serious health problems.

Improves Mood

Vitamin D acts as a hormone in your body that can affect brain function. Deficiency in vitamin D has a strong link towards increased mood disorder, which includes depression, seasonal depression, insomnia, and anxiety.

Sharpens Concentration, Memory, and Learning

Studies have shown that vitamin D has a strong link in the brain’s ability to concentrate, retain information, and make good decisions. People with lower levels of vitamin D have been found to perform poorly in exams and have difficulty in completing tasks that require concentration and focus.

Top 20 Foods Highest in Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency can be treated by getting more sunshine, taking vitamin D supplements, or adding more vitamin D foods to your diet. Here are the top 20 foods that have the highest amount of vitamin D. Include them in your daily diet to enjoy the health benefits of vitamin D.

Tofu as a Source of Vitamin D

Tofu

100 grams – 154 IU or 26% DV of vitamin D
Per 1/5 package or 79 grams – 123 IU or 21% DV of vitamin D
Per 3 oz or 85 grams – 138 IU or 23% DV of vitamin D
Tofu is made from soybean curds and it is naturally gluten-free and low in calorie. Aside from vitamin D, Tofu is also a good source of protein, vitamin B1, and essential amino acids. Tofu provides important minerals that your body needs such as phosphorus, manganese, magnesium, zinc, copper, selenium, iron, and calcium.


Dairy Products

100 grams – 108 IU or 18% DV of vitamin D
1 cup or 122 grams – 132 IU or 22% DV of vitamin D
Per ½ cup or 61 grams – 66 IU or 11% DV of vitamin D
Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt, are very rich in calcium, protein, potassium, and vitamin D. They also improve bone health, especially for older adults who need a boost of calcium. Most dairy products may be high in fat, cholesterol, and calories, but there are many options that you can choose such as skim milk and low-fat yogurt.

Pork

Pork

100 grams – 92 IU or 15% DV of vitamin D
Per ounce or 28 grams – 26 IU or 4% DV of vitamin D
Per 3 oz or 85 grams – 78 IU or 12% DV of vitamin D
Pork is surprisingly rich in vitamin D and vitamin B, which can provide you with energy throughout the day. If you are trying to lose weight, you can choose lean cuts of pork to avoid the fat.

Eggs

Eggs

100 grams – 88 IU or 15% DV of vitamin D
Per cup, chopped or 136 grams – 120 IU or 20% DV of vitamin D
Per egg or 50 grams – 44 IU or 7% DV of vitamin D
The yolk of the egg contains most of the nutrients, but it also has a lot of fat and cholesterol. If you want to avoid the fat and cholesterol, you can just consume the egg whites. It is still better to eat the whole egg to get all its nutritional benefits.

Fortified Cereals

Fortified Cereals

100 grams – 332 IU or 56% DV of vitamin D
Per ¾ cup or 30 grams – 100 IU or 17% DV of vitamin D
Per ounce or 28 grams – 93 IU or 16% DV of vitamin D
Fortified cereals are the perfect breakfast meal to start your day. Fortified means that it contains an added variety of vitamins and minerals. They put extra vitamin D and other nutrients to decrease the occurrence of vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

Fish Roe

100 grams – 484 IU or 81% DV of vitamin D
Per ounce or 28 grams – 136 IU or 23% DV of vitamin D
Per tablespoon or 14 grams – 68 IU or 11% DV of vitamin D
Fish Roe or fish eggs are very rich in vitamin D, micronutrients, and omega-3 fatty acids. Other nutrients included in fish roe are vitamins A, E, B6, magnesium, iron, and selenium.

Oily Fish

Oily Fish

100 grams – 760 IU or 127% DV of vitamin D
Per fillet or 71 grams – 540 IU or 90% DV of vitamin D
Per 3 oz or85 grams – 646 IU or 108% DV of vitamin D
Oily fish are very rich in both vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as other important minerals like calcium, iron, and potassium. Sardines are a good example of oily fish that you can add to your healthy diet plan.

Mushrooms as a Source of Vitamin D

Mushrooms

100 grams or 1 cup – 1,136 IU or 189% DV of vitamin D
Diced or 86 grams – 977 IU or 163% DV of vitamin D
Per mushroom or 84 grams – 954 IU or 159% DV of vitamin D
Mushrooms can give you enough of your daily dose of vitamin D even with just a small serving. It is recommended to sample different mushrooms to see which ones will fit your taste. Some mushrooms have their own distinct taste and may difficult to find because they are not available for groceries.

Cod Liver Oil as a Source of Vitamin D

Cod Liver Oil

100 grams – 10,000 IU or 1,667% DV of vitamin D
Per 1 tbsp or 14 grams – 1,400 IU or 233% DV of vitamin D
Per 1 tsp or 5 grams – 500 IU or 83% DV of vitamin D
It only takes just one teaspoon of cod liver oil to complete your daily recommended dose of vitamin D. This oil is usually given as a dietary supplement and it is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A.


Salmon

Salmon

1 Salmon contains 906 IU or 227% DV of vitamin D. Salmon is a type of fish that can easily be eaten on a regular basis. It is very rich in vitamin D, as well as other important nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids and protein. It is not only one of the best vitamin D foods, but it is also an effective anti-inflammatory food. Salmon is good for your heart health and helps lower the risk of degenerative brain disease like Alzheimer’s disease.

Oysters

Provides 320 IU or 80% DV of vitamin D. Oyster is another healthy seafood meal that is rich in vitamin D and omega-3 fatty acids. If you have poor heart health, then this is one of the vitamin D foods that you should include in your diet. Oysters can lower the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and heart attack. It is also a very good source of vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, and protein.

Shrimps

Per serving provides 152 IU or 38%. Shrimps are low in calories, which makes them one of the best vitamin D foods if you want to lose weight. Aside from vitamin D, shrimps also contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Other nutrients being offered by shrimps include selenium, phosphorus, vitamin B12, copper, choline, and iodine.

Fortified Orange Juice

1 cup or 237 ml of fortified orange juice – 142 IU or 36% DV of vitamin D. Not everyone can drink milk and consume dairy products because they are lactose intolerant or have certain milk allergies. For this reason, there are a lot of fortified orange juice that you can buy to get your daily dose of vitamin D and other essential nutrients.

Tuna Fish

Canned Tuna Fish

1 can of tuna or 100-gram serving contains 236 IU of vitamin D. Canned tuna is preferred by most people instead of buying fresh tuna because it is cheaper and has a lighter flavor. Aside from vitamin D, it is also a good source of niacin and vitamin K.

Herring

A 100-gram serving provides 167 IU or 42% DV of vitamin D. With only just 100 gram of serving, you can already consume almost half of your daily requirement of vitamin D. Like other seafood mentioned above, herring is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids that can improve your heart health.  You can buy fresh herring or opt for the canned herring if you want a quick meal.

Soy Milk

Fortified Soy Milk

1 cup or 237 ml of fortified soy milk contains between 99 to 119 IU or 30% DV of vitamin D. Soy milk, which is plant-based milk, is often fortified with a variety of vitamins and minerals that are found in cow’s milk.

Cheese

Cheese contains 102 IU or 26% DV of vitamin D. Cheese may not be the most recommended food for those who are planning to lose weight, but it is still considered as a good source of vitamin D. Since cheese is basically processed milk, it contains more vitamin D and calcium than milk. You have to remember that cheese is high in fat and cholesterol, so you should balance your cheese consumption.

Snapper

100 gram serving of Snapper provides 408 IU or 102% DV of vitamin D. Snapper stands out among other fishes and seafood because it is very rich in vitamin D. Another reason to eat this type of fish is its high selenium content. It is also low in calories and rich in protein. Snapper can be served as a main dish partnered with vegetables for a balanced meal.

Salami

100 gram serving of salami provides 41 IU or 10% DV of vitamin D. Aside from vitamin D, salami is a rich source of calcium, potassium, and vitamin B12. However, salami also has high sodium and fat content, so you should only consume a small serving size. You can add it to your sandwich or give flavor to your appetizers.

Eel

Eel

One serving contains 932 IU or 233% DV of vitamin D. Eel may not be your regular type of dish but it is considered as one of the best vitamin D foods. Aside from a rich source of vitamin D, it also provides omega-3 fatty acids that balance your cholesterol level and lower the risk of cancer. Eel is also a good source of protein. If you don’t want to cook eel at home, you can order it as a sushi in Japanese restaurants.

Vitamin D Foods: Top Foods Highest in Vitamin D