Vitamin D is a nutrient our bodies simply cannot live without. In addition to playing a crucial role in bone health, it is also vital for regulating the immune system, balancing hormones, and reducing the risk of diseases like type 2 diabetes and various cancers.
Yet, alarming amounts of people aren’t getting enough vitamin D. In the United States alone, over 40 percent of the population is deficient. So how can you up your intake? Well, sun exposure is the best method, but it also helps to consume a variety of vitamin D-rich foods—including these 12.
A popular fatty fish, salmon is among the best natural sources of vitamin D. Although it helps to note that the wild-caught variety is especially rich, with one study finding that a 3.5-ounce serving contains 988 IU of the nutrient—a whopping 247 percent of your daily value!
The same study discovered that farmed salmon, on the other hand, “contained only 25% of that amount,” says Healthline.com, which equates to about 250 IU of vitamin D (63 percent of your daily intake requirements).
Tuna is another vitamin D-rich food source. Although fresh is best, it can also be quite pricey. As an affordable alternative, try consuming the canned variety, which EverydayHealth.com says contains 154 IU of vitamin D per 3-ounce serving.
If you tend to avoid eating tuna because of its mercury content, Healthline.com suggests choosing light tuna (as it contains less than white tuna) and limiting your consumption to a maximum of six ounces per week.
Tuna isn’t the only type of canned fish that can boost your vitamin D intake. Sardines are another great option, as just two of them contain 46 IU of the nutrient (approximately 8 percent of your required daily intake).
In addition to vitamin D, they’re also an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and calcium. EverydayHealth.com suggests eating them “on top of salads as well as in pasta sauces and stews.”
4. Cod Liver Oil
If you’re not a big fan of eating fish, perhaps try taking cod liver oil instead? Just one tablespoon of the supplement offers 1300 IU of vitamin D, which is over 200 percent of your daily value.
Cod liver oil is also rich in omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A, but if taking it by the spoonful doesn’t sound appealing to you, rest assured that it can also be consumed in capsule format.
Although fish are among the best natural sources of vitamin D, they aren’t the only ones. Eggs are as well, but since the vitamin D is contained within the yolk, Health.com says, “…it’s important to use the whole egg—not just the whites.”
Although each egg yolk offers a healthy 40 IU of vitamin D, the source suggests limiting your intake as “One egg contains about 200 milligrams of cholesterol, and the American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 300 milligrams a day for heart health.”
Interestingly, like humans, mushrooms “have the capacity to produce vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet light,” says Health.com. While most varieties are grown in the dark, and therefore don’t contain any vitamin D, certain types are exposed to sunlight.
Shiitake mushrooms, for example, contain 40 IU per one-cup serving, making them a good option. While white mushroom, on the other hand, only offer 5 IU of vitamin D. So be sure to pick your mushrooms wisely! Whenever possible, check the nutrition label to see how much, if any, they contain.
7. Beef Liver
Perhaps it wouldn’t be most people’s first choice for a vitamin D-rich food, but beef liver is an excellent source of the nutrient, with a three-ounce serving offering 42 IU.
Beef liver also contains many other valuable nutrients, such as protein, vitamin A, and iron. Although Health.com warns that it contains high amounts of cholesterol, so it may be best to limit your intake or eat one of the previously mentioned fish sources instead.
Although not a natural source of vitamin D, most types of cow’s milk in the United States (and several other countries) are fortified with the nutrient. One cup of it offers approximately 100 IU, which equates to about 25 percent of your required daily intake.
Some plant-based milks are also fortified with vitamin D, including almond milk, which contains 100 IU per eight-ounce serving, and soy milk, which Healthline.com says has “between 99–119 IU of vitamin D” per one-cup serving.
Speaking of milk, some yogurt varieties also offer vitamin D, depending on the brand you buy and whether or not they’re fortified. If they are fortified, EverydayHealth.com says they can “knock off between 10 and 20 percent of your daily requirement of vitamin D.”
But be sure to read the nutrition information before buying, as the source warns that “Many fortified varieties are flavored; some brands pack a hefty dose of sugar.”
10. Orange Juice
Like milk and yogurt, orange juice is another source that’s often fortified with vitamin D, making it a good alternative for those who are lactose intolerant or vegan.
A one-cup serving offers 142 IU of the nutrient, accounting for 36 percent of your daily value. A good accompaniment to breakfast foods, it can also be added to smoothies or used in cooking. It’s important to note that not all varieties are fortified, however, so be sure to carefully read the product label.
Cereals and instant oatmeal are other food sources that are often fortified with vitamin D, making them a great way to start your day—especially when eaten alongside a glass of fortified orange juice.
Healthline.com says that just half a cup of either offers “between 55 and 154 IU, or up to 39% of the RDI.” And if you eat your cereal or oatmeal with fortified milk, you can boost your intake even further!
12. Ricotta Cheese
Although other dairy products need to be fortified in order to contain vitamin D, ricotta cheese does not. A natural source of the nutrient, a one-cup serving offers 25 IU, which is “five times as much as most other cheeses,” says EverydayHealth.com.
The source suggests eating it alongside fruits like grapes or blueberries, as well as in pancakes. It is also a common ingredient in pastas like lasagna and manicotti, as well as desserts like cheesecake.