Vitamin D can be found only in a few foods naturally. Most of our vitamin D intake comes in the form of fortified foods like enriched milk and packaged cereals. Vitamin D is needed by our nervous system and muscles and for our bodies to absorb calcium. In addition, it helps maintain a healthy immune system and may help to reduce the risk of colon cancer, according to the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements.
The average healthy adult and child need 600 IU (International Units) of vitamin D daily. This is the Daily Reference Intake (DRI) as stated by the Institute of Medicine of The National Academies.
The top 10 foods highest in vitamin D do not include any vegetables or fruits. The list contains both foods fortified with vitamin D and foods that naturally are a significant source of vitamin D.
1. Mackerel. With 547 IU of vitamin D per 3-ounce serving, Atlantic mackerel takes the top spot. The fish also has significant amounts of vitamin A, choline and protein.
2. Salmon. High in omega-3 fatty acids, 3 ounces of raw pink salmon boast 370 IU of vitamin D.
3. Tuna. Vitamin D levels vary depending on the type of tuna. Bluefin (raw, 3 ounces) has the most at 193 IU, with yellowfin (raw, 3 ounces) at only 59 IU. However, the same amount of light tuna canned in water contains 154 IU vitamin D.
4. Herring. Three ounces of raw Atlantic herring offer 142 IU of vitamin D. Three ounces of boneless pickled (Atlantic) herring have 96 IU.
5. Fortified orange juice. Like milk and breakfast cereals, orange juice is often fortified with calcium and vitamin D. A one-cup serving can have as much as 137 IU vitamin D.
6. Fortified milk. One cup of whole milk with added vitamin D has 124 IU. Two percent/reduced fat milk has a bit less with 120 IU of vitamin D, while skim milk has only 117 IU vitamin D.
7. Fortified tofu. According to the New York State Department of Health, a one-fifth block of fortified raw tofu has 120 IU of vitamin D. Tofu can be added to traditional stir-fry and noodle dishes, as well as eaten seared, grilled or baked.
8. Soymilk. Regular soymilk, not fortified with additional vitamins, still contains 119 IU of vitamin D per one-cup serving. Soymilk fortified with calcium and vitamins A and D contains 100 IU of vitamin D.
9. Fortified breakfast cereals. Many ready-to-eat breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamins and minerals. For example, a one-cup serving of POST Grape-Nuts boasts 80 IU of vitamin D. The same serving of MALT-O-MEAL Raisin Bran has 48 IU of vitamin D, while a one-cup serving of Cheerios has 40 IU. Be aware, however, that not all cereals are fortified with additional vitamins and minerals.
10. Egg yolks. The egg is more than a versatile food and protein source. The yolk from one large egg contains 37 IU of vitamin D plus 22 milligrams of calcium and 19 milligrams of potassium.
11. Cod liver oil. Hidden in Grandma’s pantry may be the biggest source of vitamin D. Not a typical food source, one tablespoon of cod liver oil has a whopping 1,360 IU vitamin D.