Foods rich in vitamin D when the sun is scarce

If you live where the winter gray skies and cold conditions makes daily exposure to sunshine difficult, eating vitamin D rich and vitamin D fortified foods is essential for good health.

Eating foods that are nutrient dense and provide important vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals is critical to maintain optimal health. Vitamin D is one vitamin that Americans need to increase their understanding of to address or prevent deficiencies. Receiving enough vitamin D is important for children and adults as this nutrient supports almost every part of your body.

Vitamin D, also called the “sunshine vitamin” gets its name due to the bodies’ unique ability to produce vitamin D when skin is exposed to direct sunshine. However, many people live in regions where the sun’s energy isn’t strong enough for the skin to produce vitamin D, making daily food choices an important consideration for bone health and normal calcium metabolism.

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin D from age one to seventy years is 600 International Units (IU). Age 70 and over the RDA increases to 800 IU. Exposure to sunlight is not factored into the RDA, as many variables must be considered. Michigan State University Extension encourages families to be mindful of their need for vitamin D and strive to eat good food sources to maintain proper vitamin levels.

Educating yourself about foods that contain vitamin D naturally, or fortified can be made easier by viewing a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Nutrient Database and reading nutrition facts labels. The standard nutrition facts label does not require vitamin D information unless the food has been fortified with vitamin D, however many food manufacturers include the percent daily value of vitamin D to assist consumers. Foods with lower vitamin D content also contribute to a healthier diet.

Good food sources for vitamin D include:


Portion size

Vitamin D IU per serving

Salmon (sockeye) - cooked

3 ounces


Swordfish - cooked

3 ounces


Tuna, canned in oil/drained

3 ounces


Tuna, canned in water/drained

3 ounces


Halibut - cooked

3 ounces


Milk – many milk products including non-fat, reduced fat or whole milk

 8 ounces (1 cup)


Orange juice - fortified with vitamin D

 8 ounces (1 cup)


Ready to eat fortified cereal

3/4 cup to 1 cup

Ranges 40 +

Egg (includes the yoke)

1 egg


Learning more about the foods you eat is a wonderful step towards eating for good nutrition. Vitamins are essential to your body’s proper functioning. Arm yourself with knowledge by learning more about vitamin D deficiency in children and adults. Speak with your health care providers about vitamin D and your unique medical history.

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