Food, sun or supplements is the best source of vitamin D?

What's the best vitamin D source: animal products, fortified foods, vegan foods, sun, or supplements?

How much vitamin D do we need daily?

According to the US Department of National Health & Human Services, most people need approximately 15 mcg or 600 IU of vitamin D per day. Elderly people need about 20 mcg.[1]

What are the health benefits of vitamin D?

Vitamin D is so important for the human body. For instance, vitamin D plays an important role on testosterone synthesis, skin health, cell growth, neuromuscular function, immune function, and reduction of inflammation. Most noteworthy, vitamin D has been linked to the prevention of:

  • bone and tooth loss. Vitamin D promotes calcium absorption. Also, it regulates calcium and phosphate in the blood. They are vital for normal bone growth.
  • osteoporosis. Vitamin D may protect elderly people from osteoporosis.
  • cancer. Vitamin D can decrease the risk for certain cancers, such as colon, prostate, and breast cancer.

Moreover, according to studies, vitamin D may play some role in the prevention and treatment of type 1 and type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, constipation, glucose intolerance, multiple sclerosis, and even depression.[1]

Are animal sources rich in vitamin D?

Even meat-eaters and vegetarians can’t get adequate amounts of vitamin D through food. Only a few foods contain vitamin D. Above all, fortified foods with vitamin D provide adequate amounts of vitamin D.

But, what animal foods naturally contain vitamin D? Certainly fatty fish are the best source of vitamin D. Beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks provide only small amounts:

Vitamin D (mcg)
per 100 gr)
Vitamin D (IU)
per 100 gr
% DV
(Daily Value)
cod liver oil250100001667
salmon, dried34,11364227
trout, smoked28,31132189
trout, fresh15,9636106
tuna, smoked11,345275
mackerel, smoked11,345275
salmon, fresh10,943673
egg yolks5,421636
tuna, dried5,321235
sardines 4,819232
beef liver1,2488
cod, smoked0,8325
cheddar cheese0,6244
goat cheese0,5203
feta cheese0,4163
Animal products rich in vitamin D.

Why we shouldn’t depend on animal foods for vitamin D?

Certainly, eating fish, meat, and dairy for vitamin D isn’t the best option.

Why should you avoid fish consumption?

Firstly, fish don’t have fiber. Moreover, fish are low in antioxidants, compared to fruits, vegetables, beans, spices, or herbs.

On the other hand, fish contain high amounts of cholesterol and saturated fat. Moreover, big fatty fish tend to be polluted with heavy metals.

Are meat & dairy good sources of vitamin D?

Meet, and dairy aren’t good sources of vitamin D. Actually, only specific parts of animals contain some amounts of vitamin D.[2]

Furthermore, animals may contain vitamin D, as farmers give them vitamin D supplements.

Eggs aren’t good sources of vitamin D either. 1 egg yolk contains only 0.9 mcg of vitamin D. That’s 6% DV. But, when you eat an egg yolk, you consume 184 mg of cholesterol, and 1.6 gr of saturated fat, as well. Increased saturated fat intake has been linked to increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Therefore, the American Heart Association recommends no more than 13 grams of saturated fat per day.[3]

Meat, egg, and dairy provides only a tiny dose of vitamin D. On the other hand, they are packed with saturated fat. Better avoid them.

Do animals produce vitamin D?

Many animals synthesize vitamin D when their skin is exposed to the sunlight. Just like humans.

On the contrary, fish don’t synthesize vitamin D. They receive vitamin D from food. Wild fish eat plankton that contains vitamin D. Farmed fish are fed formulated diets that contain vitamin D.[4]

Fish store vitamin D in liver and fat tissues. However, according to a research, fish may contain less vitamin D than the amount of vitamin D in food charts. That’s mainly due to the different fish diets. Therefore, you can’t be sure that you consume a specific dose of vitamin D from fish.[5]

Plant-based foods rich in vitamin D

Vitamin D is indeed rare in food. Especially plant-based foods. There’s only a vegan option for vitamin D. Actually, only some mushrooms contain adequate amounts of vitamin D. Maitake, chanterelle, and morel are the only mushroom varieties that are high in vitamin D. Moreover, some producers expose mushrooms to ultraviolet light. This way they can produce more vitamin D naturally.[6]

Vitamin D (mcg)
per 100 gr)
Vitamin D (IU)
per 100 gr
% DV
(Daily Value)
Vitamin D content of common mushroom varieties.

Are fortified products good for you?

Certainly, the most common dietary vitamin D sources are fortified products. Nowadays, many foods are fortified with vitamin D. For instance, you can find many fortified foods, such as tofu, orange juice, cow’s milk, or any plant-based milk. Certainly, fortified foods help us meet the daily vitamin D needs.

How much vitamin D do we get from the sun?

The human body synthesizes vitamin D when the skin is exposed to the sunlight. For many people, sunlight exposure is the major source of vitamin D.

The human body stores vitamin D in the liver and fat tissue. People who are exposed to the sunlight during the summer, fall, and spring may store adequate amounts of vitamin D for the winter. Research has shown that even people who live in areas with limiting sun exposure can synthesize high doses of vitamin D from the sun.

Moreover, there isn’t such thing as excessive sun exposure. We can’t get too much vitamin D from sunlight. The heat on the skin inhibits the formation of excess vitamin D.[1]

How long do you need to be in the sun to get vitamin D?

There isn’t a recommended daily sunlight exposure, as vitamin D synthesis depends on many factors:

  • season,
  • time of day,
  • length of day,
  • cloud cover,
  • pollution,
  • skin melanin content, and
  • sunscreen

All these factors affect UV radiation exposure. Hence, vitamin D synthesis. Practically, 30min of sun exposure daily are considered enough. Even less is enough.

Certainly, avoid exposing any part of the body to sunlight after 1pm, without using sunlight protection. Every year, there are approximately 1.5 million skin cancers. UV radiation is a carcinogen. Moreover, you can protect your skin from photoaging with vitamin E.

Can vitamin C protect from skin cancer & melanoma?

Vitamin C is a powerful natural antioxidant. It has gained huge popularity in dermatology. Moreover, vitamin C may help fight tissue inflammation, free radicals, and photoaging. Also, vitamin C may promote tissue healing, and stimulate collagen synthesis.[7]

Most noteworthy, vitamin C may help to inhibit the invasion and metastasis of melanoma.[8] Therefore, try to consume more foods high in vitamin C, especially during summer.

Certainly, vitamin C is vital for healthy skin. Above all, vitamin C is a natural anti-aging agent, as vitamin C promotes natural collagen synthesis.

Many fruits are rich in vitamin C. For instance, all citrus fruits, such as lemons are high in vitamin C. Also, many vegetables are good sources of vitamin C. The richest are peppers, cauliflower, and broccoli. See the whole list, here.

Can I get vitamin D on a cloudy or rainy day?

Vitamin D is produced when Ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation, with a wavelength of 290–320 nm penetrates the skin. On a cloudy day, the energy of the radiation is reduced by 50%. Shade or air pollution may reduce it up to 60%.

Can I get vitamin D indoors?

If you’re in a building you can’t synthesize any vitamin D. Not even if you’re in a sunny room, as UVB radiation doesn’t penetrate glass.

Do sunscreens inhibit vitamin D formation?

As a rule of thumb, sunscreens block the UV rays that produce vitamin D. You should prefer sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 8 or more.

On the other hand, studies have shown that most people fail to cover skin properly! We don’t cover all the exposed skin, or we forget to put sunscreen regularly.

Should I take vitamin D supplements?

According to the American Office of Dietary Supplements, most people shouldn’t consume more than 4,000 IU (100 mcg) of vitamin D a day. Vitamin D is fat-soluble. It is accumulated in the body fat.

On the other hand, vitamin D toxicity is rather unlikely to happen at dosages below 10,000 IU per day. Furthermore, vitamin D toxicity may happen only from supplements, not exposure to sunlight or from food.

In any case, consult your physician before starting vitamin D supplementation. Especially, if you’re on medication.

How to increase absorption of vitamin D supplements?

Maybe it’s a good idea to consume vitamin D supplements with food, especially fat. A 2015 study showed that people who consumed dietary fat with vitamin D supplementation increased the vitamin D absorption up to 32%.[9]

The best dietary sources of fat are seeds and nuts. Prefer them as a fat source. They are rich in many nutrients.

For instance, walnuts and flaxseeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids. So, walnuts are good for your brain health, along as strong and shinny hair. Furthermore, eating just a tbsp of flaxseed daily may prevent hair loss.

So, does vegan food provide enough vitamin D?

Mushrooms are actually the only vegan food that contain some vitamin D. So, vegans and vegetarians can’t depend on food for vitamin D. Either meat eaters can’t depend on food! Therefore, you should prefer fortified foods, sun exposure, or vitamin D supplements for your daily vitamin D dose.

Vitamin D supplementation is the safest way to meet your daily vitamin D needs. It’s the cheapest solution. Compare prices from supplements on Amazon.