17 foods rich in vitamin D

According to the General Directorate of Health (DGS), there are two forms of vitamin D: vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) which is synthesized in the skin, during exposure to the sun, or obtained by eating certain foods, including eggs and oily fish; and vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) which is produced by ultraviolet irradiation of yeast and mushrooms exposed to the sun, and is then taken in food supplements or medicines.

This means that while diet can make an important contribution to balancing vitamin D levels in the body, exposure to sunlight is also of great importance for this purpose.


Vitamin D: main functions

Vitamin D plays a very relevant role in the proper functioning of our body, assuming several important functions, such as:

  • Helps in the formation of bones and teeth;
  • Regulate calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood and promote their absorption ;
  • Maintain appropriate calcium and phosphorus levels;
  • Strengthen muscles;
  • Osteoporosis prevention;
  • Protecting cardiovascular health by controlling heart muscle contractions;
  • Strengthen the immune system;
  • Improve neurological function;
  • Prevent hypertension and gestational diabetes, as well as the birth of underweight babies.

On the other hand, in case of vitamin D deficiency, the risk of developing viral and bacterial infections, inflammatory bowel diseases, autoimmune, bone, cardiovascular or neurodegenerative diseases is also higher.


Daily vitamin D requirements, according to age,
and given in international units (IU)
Age Daily dose of vitamin D
0 to 12 months 400 IU
1 to 13 years 600 IU
14 to 50 years 600 IU
51 to 70 years 600 IU
Over 70 years old 800 IU

17 foods rich in vitamin D

Overall, you can get vitamin D from foods as diverse as meats, fish, seafood, eggs, milk, livers and cheeses. Learn about some of these foods.

Fresh herring

Herring is an oily fish, very healthy and rich in vitamin D. There is more than one species of this fish and it can be eaten in different ways.


Tuna contains ⅓ of the recommended daily serving of vitamin D for a healthy adult. This ingredient is quite versatile and you can include it in a wide variety of dishes.


Seafood, like shrimp, is a very complete ingredient that, among other vitamins and nutrients, contains a significant amount of vitamin D

White meats

Lean, healthy and rich in vitamin D, white meats, such as chicken or turkey, are excellent options for balanced, nutritious meals.

Red Meats

Red meat should be consumed in moderation. However, it contains vitamin D and should therefore be included in a balanced and varied diet.


Yes, mushrooms are a source of vitamin D, especially due to their high exposure to the sun. The richest in this vitamin are: shimeji, shitake, mushroom, portobello and funghi.

Chicken liver

Chicken liver is also an excellent source of vitamin D. For those in the know, it can be a good alternative to beef liver.

Beef liver

This is another important source of vitamin D. You can eat this food in steak form, grilled or boiled for a healthier option.


Yogurt is a tasty source of vitamin D that you can eat as a snack with fruit or in lunches and dinners in fresh salads.

Whole Milk

Whole or fortified milk is an important source of vitamin D, which, along with calcium, helps to strengthen the body’s muscles and bones.


Butter also contains vitamin D. However, it should only be eaten occasionally because of the amount of saturated fat and cholesterol it contains.

Above all, it should not be eaten hot, because heating it up promotes the production of so-called “trans” fatty acids, which are harmful to the cardiovascular system.

Cod liver oil

Older generations certainly remember cod liver oil which was so good for the body but tasted so bad… Today, this natural ingredient is present in several fortified products, allowing to compensate for possible vitamin D deficiencies.


Although not enjoyed by everyone, it is a very nutritious snack, low in calories and quite high in vitamin D.


Eggs are one of the ingredients most associated with vitamin D and, in fact, are an excellent source of this vitamin. You can cook them scrambled, boiled, poached or fried.


Some cheeses contain more vitamin D than others. It all has to do with the fact that they are more or less industrialized. Swiss, cheddar or ricotta cheeses are generally the most recommended source of vitamin D.

However, they should be consumed in moderation. Remember that daily fat intake should not exceed 30% of total energy (between “good” and “not so good” fats).


Salmon is tasty and an important source of vitamin D. With this ingredient, you can cook delicious dishes that guarantee a correct intake of this vitamin for the body.


Sardines are a very popular fish in our country and so much the better, because they provide a significant dose of vitamin D.


Amount of vitamin D in micrograms per 100 grams of food
Herrings 23.5 mcg
Tuna 2.050 mcg
Shrimp 0.075 mcg
White meat 0.3 mcg
Red meat 0.18 mcg
Mushrooms 0.175 mcg
Beef liver 1.1 mcg
Chicken liver 2 mcg
Yoghurt 0.04 mcg
Fortified milk 2.45 mcg
Butter 1.53 mcg
Cod liver oil 252 mcg
Oysters 8 mcg
Egg 1.3 mcg
Cheese 0.32 mcg
Salmon 5 mcg
Sardine 40 mcg

Vitamin D supplementation: yes or no?

In Portugal, vitamin D supplementation follows the DGS norm No. 004/2019 of 14/08/2019, and is intended for children in their first year of life and/or proven cases of deficiency, duly diagnosed and evaluated by a clinician.

Therefore, vitamin D supplements should never be taken without appropriate medical recommendation.


Vitamin D supplementation and COVID-19

This year, several countries have already recommended vitamin D supplementation, especially for those most likely to be deficient in this vitamin, such as the elderly, those with more pigmented skin, the overweight, and all those who, due to their confinement, spend more time at home and do not get as much sun exposure.

In addition, it is known that maintaining vitamin D levels at recommended levels helps prevent other illnesses such as colds and flu. It is therefore always important to avoid a deficiency of this vitamin, regardless of whether or not it may have an influence in the fight against an infection caused by the new coronavirus.

However, this supplementation should always be recommended by a physician, because it is known that an excess of vitamin D in the body can also be harmful, causing dehydration, increased thirst, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Until now, the scientific community has not been able to state whether or not vitamin D deficiency is related to a greater or lesser predisposition to Covid-19 or to the most severe pictures of the disease. Therefore, vitamin D supplementation as a means of preventing or treating Sars-Cov-2 infection is not recommended.

Vitamin D and COVID-19: what do we know so far?

Since the onset of the new coronavirus pandemic, several studies have investigated a possible relationship between vitamin D levels in the body and Covid-19.

However, there is not yet enough scientific evidence to conclude that there is actually some sort of causal relationship between these two vectors. But, after all, what do we know so far?

Some research, before the appearance of Sars-Cov-2, already suggested the possibility that vitamin D deficiency might be an aggravating factor in respiratory infections.

Along these lines, and Covid-19 being a respiratory viral infection, several investigations have been developed so far that also aim to identify a possible relationship between vitamin D deficiency and the most severe cases of Covid-19.

However, to date, the results of these studies are not sufficiently conclusive to state that behind the most severe infections with the new coronavirus there is indeed a vitamin D deficiency.

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