The Vitamin D Food Guide



Vitamin D is a somewhat special micronutrient as we can produce it on our own in our skin. Our skin contains Provitamin D, which we convert to vitamin D when exposing our skin to sunlight.

Food Authotities advise to obtain 80% of the daily vitamin D needs through sunlight and 20% through food, which is rich in vitamin D. Thus, we should consume at least 5μg/200 I.U. of vitamin D though our daily diet. Our total daily vitamin D requirement is at least 25μg/ 1000 I.U. 

Vitamin D plays a crucial role for healthy bones, muscles and the normal functioning of the immune system. Furthermore, current research indicates that a vitamin D deficiency could contribute to dementia, diabetes and depression.

Notably, worldwide 1 billion people are estimated to have a vitamin D deficiency, since their lifestyles make a sufficient sun exposure impossible. Furthermore, vitamin D is only present in a limited amount of foods, especialy plant-based sources are scare.

The best food sources of vitamin D

There are only few foods, which are rich in vitamin D. Moreover, most of them are of animal origin, which makes it even more difficult for vegetarians and vegans to get suficient amounts. 

The most common food sources of vitamin D are:

  • Oily Fish
  • Meat (liver), Dairy & Eggs
  • Mushrooms
  • Fortified Food

Oily Fish

Fish is a healthy source of protein and Omega 3 fats. Furthermore, fish is an excellent source of vitamin D, as it contains high levels of the micronutrient. As an illustration, here are some examples of fish with high quantities of vitamin D:

  • Salmon: Salmon is very high on vitamin D, counting 14.1µg /563 I.U. per 100g - this is nearly 3 times the RDI from food sources. Studies indicate that farmed salmon only contains 25% of the amount found in wild salmon.
  • Sardines:100g of cooked sardines contain 4,8µg/192 I.U.- this is 96% of the recommended daily intake from food.

Meat , Dairy & Eggs

Indeed, vitamin D can be found in lots of animal foods. Some meats, dairy products and eggs contain some amounts of vitamin D. The vitamin D is mainly processed through the liver, thus liver is very high in vitamin D:

  • Beef Liver: Liver is higher in vitamin D and contains more than most other meats. 100g contain 1,2μg/ 48 I.U. - this is approx. 25% of the RDI from food
  • Cheddar: Cheddar is the most popular cheese worldwide. 100g of cheddar cheese contain 0.8μg/32 I.U - this is 16% of the RDI.
  • Eggs: Egg yolks contain some amounts of vitamin D. 100g (about 1.5 medium sized eggs) contain 2μg/80 I.U. - this is 40% of the RDI.

Plant-based Vitamin D Food

All of the foods mentioned above are of animal origin. Therefore, peole who follow a plant-based diet might have difficulties achieving sufficient amounts of vitamin D through nutrition. Regarding the fact, that in large parts of the world you cannot derive any vitamin D from the sun during winter, it is crucial to know the right sources of vitamin D as a vegan - sometimes taking supplements is being recommended. In particular, the only plant-based food with relevant amounts of vitamin D is: Mushrooms.

Mushrooms - among the best vitamin D Foods

Mushrooms are very similar to us humans - they can also build vitamin D through sun exposure. Mushrooms contain ergosterol in their bodies, which is the plant-based alternative of provitamin D. Thus, if mushrooms are given a UV-B light treatment they can build large amounts of vitamin D naturally.

As conventional mushrooms are farmed inside, they do not contain a lot of vitamin D - they are basically deficient.


Various mushrooms contain vitamin D:

  • Wild Shiitake: Wild mushrooms build vitamin D through sun exposure. Shiitake mushrooms contain up to 18μg/720/I.U. per 100g - this equals 360% of the RDI.
  • Maitake mushrooms: Raw maitake mushrooms are a vitamin D bomb: 100g contain 28.1μg/1123 I.U. - this is more than 5 times the RDI from food and even exceeds the advised intake from sunlight + food (25μg/1000 I.U.).
  • UV-B exposed white button mushrooms (Agaricus Bisporus): The UV-B treatment boosts the vitamin D content of white button mushrooms massively. These mushrooms contain up to 26.2 μg/ 1048I.U. of vitamin D per 100g - this is 524% of the RDI.

MUSHROOM LIFEHACK - Place your mushrooms in the sun 30 minutes before cooking & they'll be full of natural vitamin D!

Fortified food

Fortified Food decribes food, which contains health-beneficial micronutrients that are added to the product during production.

Nowadays, many products are fortified with vitamin D to battle the vitamin D deficiencies worldwide. These products inlcude:

  • cow's milk
  • plant milk
  • juices
  • bread
  • snacks (like our soup)

Why you should get enough vitamin D

Getting too little amounts of vitamin D over a long period can have serious negative effects on your health. Hence, it can lead to weak bones - also known as osteoporosis - and weak muscles. Furthermore, research indicates that it leads to a weak immunesystem and fatigue. 

On the other hand several studies indicate that healthy vitamin D levels have a positive impact on dieseases as:

  • some cancer diseases
  • hypertophy
  • diabetes

Healthy vitamin D levels can be difficult to achieve. Usually, being outside for half an hour per day should lead to sufficient vitamin D levels. However, these values can vary due to the following factors:

  • geographic location (read our post about the 37th parallel for more information)
  • color of the skin
  • seasonality
  • time of the day
  • Clouds / Smog
  • whether people wear sunscreen

Consequently, food and supplementation should get a higher attention by a large part of the population.

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