Top 10 Best Sources of Vitamin D

Top 10 Best Sources of Vitamin D

What are the best sources of vitamin D? Vitamin D deficiency is common in Americans. Forty-two percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient, according to a recent study by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

Vitamin D is necessary for proper mineral absorption and metabolism. Insufficient levels of vitamin D have been linked to osteoporosis, cavities and tooth decay, bone loss and bone fracture, heart disease, autoimmune disease, multiple sclerosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer and other diseases.

The U.S. RDA (recommended daily allowance) for vitamin D is 600 IU per day. In contrast, both the Weston A. Price Foundation and Dr. Mercola recommend around 5,000 IU per day. I'm not sure what the right amount is but perhaps it is somewhere in between.

The best source of vitamin D is sunshine. There are some sources of food that are high in vitamin D, but they are hard to come by. Synthetic vitamin supplements are generally made from Irradiated Ergosteral, i.e. Yeast (ultraviolet irradiation of sterols found in milk, fish, and eggs) or Synthetic Calciferol (derived from lanolin from sheep, or from fish).

USDA databases list the following foods as rich in vitamin D. (The amounts given are for 100 grams or about 3.5 ounces.)

These figures demonstrate the difficulty in obtaining 5,000 IU vitamin D per day from ordinary foods in the American diet.

Cod Liver Oil: 10,000 IU
Atlantic Herring (Pickled): 680 IU
Eastern Oysters (Steamed): 642 IU
Catfish (Steamed/Poached): 500 IU
Lard (Pork Fat): 100 IU

Note: The only cod liver oil I know of on the market that has this amount of vitamin D is Rosita EVCLO. See my comparison of cod liver oil brands.

Also, I'm not including food sources of vitamin D that are “fortified” with synthetic vitamin D, like fortified cereal, milk, and orange juice.

Here are the top 10 best sources of vitamin D.

Top 10 Best Sources of Vitamin D

1. Sunlight

Sunlight is the cheapest and easiest way to get vitamin D. Unfortunately, it's not so easy to get during the winter months. Did you know that low vitamin D levels is one of the main reasons people get sick in wintertime? Think about it. Why do we get sick more often in the fall and winter? It's because we're not getting as much vitamin D from the sunshine.

As summer ends and the weather begins to be less sunny, getting Vitamin D from the sun becomes more difficult. And yes, the body stores vitamin D in summer. So it's important to get enough sun in the summertime, in order to prevent colds and flu in the winter.

According to Dr. Mercola:

“…vitamin D levels in your blood fall to their lowest point during flu seasons. Unable to be protected by your body’s own antibiotics (antimicrobial peptides) that are released by vitamin D, if you have low vitamin D blood level you are more vulnerable to contracting colds, influenza, and other respiratory infections…. If you are getting plenty of sun exposure or taking the above doses of vitamin D, however, the odds of your getting the flu are VERY remote.” (Source: Dr. Mercola)

A whopping 80 percent or more of the vitamin D we need could come from the sun if we let it. Sunscreen blocks about 97% of our body's vitamin D production, according to Dr. Mark Hyman, founder and medical director of the UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Mass. But we needn't endanger ourselves to take advantage of the sun's benefits: Fair-skinned people need less than 30 minutes of casual exposure on bright days to meet their daily requirement, while darker-skinned individuals need about two hours, Hyman said.

2. Cod Liver Oil

Cod liver oil is the number one food source of vitamin D. Once popular in America to take as a daily supplement, it remains one of the best ways to build up immunity and get your daily Vitamin D dose.

Our family takes cod liver oil every day, all year long (1 tsp per day for the adults, and 1/2 tsp for the child).

I recommend fermented cod liver oil, as it is the only cod liver oil on the market that is not heated and refined. It is also the only one on the market that does not have added synthetic vitamin D.

Where to buy Cod Liver Oil

3. Lard

If you don't know about the health benefits of lard, now's the time. Lard was once the mainstay of the American family, but got a lot of bad press when Crisco started an aggressive ad campaign in the 1950s. Lard is rendered from good pig fat and contains vitamin D — about 13 IU per tablespoon.

Cooking with lard rather than vegetable oil or synthetic products makes for delicious entrees (yummy pie crusts) and healthy comfort food, too.

Vitamin D from lard can aid in calcium absorption as well as toxin removal from your body. Along with cholesterol (also found in lard), Vitamin D also assists in the production and regulation of hormones, which is important to maintain healthy hormone function.

Unfortunately, the lard you buy on the shelf is usually homogenized, and therefore does not contain the full value of naturally rendered lard. Rendering your own lard, however, is not difficult, and this is a great option. Here is a post on how to render your own lard. It's easy!

4. Bacon

Yes, I'm giving you permission to eat bacon. Forget the flu shot — eat more bacon! Not only does good quality bacon from free range pigs taste delicious, and serves as a wonderful comfort food, but contrary to popular opinion it's actually good for you, too (and much more effective and less painful than an unnecessary flu shot!)

Bacon is good for you for the same reasons as lard. It's easy to make and use in a variety of ways. Plus, it tastes delicious.

5. Salmon, Wild

Wild Salmon is a major source of Vitamin D. You really want to seek out wild salmon. Farmed salmon has only about 25% of the vitamin D as wild salmon. Not only does it taste great no matter how it is prepared, but it's healthy, too.

In fact, the American heart association recommends eating fatty, oily fish (like salmon) twice a week.

6. Oysters

Oysters, like other seafood, has a lot of Vitamin D and is fun and tasty on the palate. Oysters can boost immunity, increase energy and reduce the risk of disease. What's more, there is some evidence based on a study conducted by the American Chemical Society that amino acids that are present in oysters raise testosterone and estrogen levels. If these hormones really have anything to do with libido, there is a possibility that oysters really are a natural aphrodisiac as well.


7. Sardines

Sardines are easy to make for lunch, dinner or a snack and they contain plenty of Vitamin D to assist in meeting deficiencies. Sardines are delicious and can be used in a variety of ways. They also contain omega 3 fatty acids, B vitmains and amino acids as well.

8. Caviar and Fish Roe

Again, look for caviar (or fish eggs) from wild-caught fish. A great source of Vitamin D, caviar also provides Vitamin A, which helps with eyesight and vision, skin and has been shown to help reduce the risk of cancer as well. Other benefits include potassium for lower blood pressure and fatty acids. Caviar if also often recommended by doctors to patients recovering from chemotherapy or surgery because it assists in increasing hemoblogin content in the body.

9. Egg Yolks from Pastured Chickens

Pastured egg yolks have 4-6 times more vitamin D than conventional eggs. And the vitamin D is primarily in the yolk, not the white.

Instead of eating egg white omelettes, add extra yolks to your morning scramble or smoothie.

10. Shrimp

Shrimp is rich in Vitamins D and B3, as well as zinc, and is often recommended for people who are trying to lose weight. Shrimp has contains good cholesterol and selenium, which can help to reduce the risk for cancer.

Some of the other contents of shrimp in smaller amounts include vitamins A, E and B6, as well as magnesium, iron, zinc, sodium (salt), copper. There are even trace amounts of Vitamin C.

More to the point, shrimp is delicious, and a great source for Vitamin D in the fall and winter months when its cold out and the sun isn't shining as much.

Photo credits: Header; Sardines

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Ann Marie Michaels

I have 25 years of experience in digital and online media & marketing. I started my career in Silicon Valley and Los Angeles, working at some of the world’s top ad agencies. In 2007, after my first child was born, I started this little food blog which I grew to over 250K monthly unique website visitors and over 350K social media followers. For nearly 15 years, I've helped my audience of mostly moms and women 25-65 cook for their families and live a healthier lifestyle.

 The year after I started the blog, I founded a blog network in the health & wellness space called Village Green Network. I started the company on my coffee table and bootstrapped the business to over $1.3 million in annual revenue within 5 years. During that time, I helped a number of our bloggers become six figure earners. After being censored on almost every social media platform for telling the After being censored on almost every social media platform from Facebook and Instagram to Pinterest and Twitter, and being deplatformed on Google, I am now deployed as a digital soldier, writing almost exclusively about politics on my blog Because who can think about food when we are fighting the second revolutionary war and third world war? Don't worry, there will be more recipes one day. After the war is over.

35 thoughts on “Top 10 Best Sources of Vitamin D

  1. Saw THIS post this morning and thought of you! Always enjoy your posts! X

  2. A few years ago I had a bone density scan that showed some bone thinning in a few places. After I began taking Vitamin D supplements, I had another scan, and the results were “normal”. I totally credit that with taking the Vitamin D supplements. I know there are good food sources of it, but I still believe supplementing is necessary for many of us.

    1. I think it’s a matter of good, better, best. I have taken Vitamin D supplements as well, and for my vegetarian Mom, they are a good option. For myself, I take fermented cod liver oil – and, after reading this article, I’m glad I use lard, eat wild caught salmon and pastured eggs, etc. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t take the Vitamin D supplements if that was all that was available!

      Another way to make sure your bones stay strong – do load bearing exercise. Also, I think drinking raw milk and eating lots of leafy greens helps as far as the calcium you need – my Mom, who grew up in India, drank raw cows milk (straight from the cow) and ate butter made from raw buffalo milk as well as eating lots of freshly harvested greens from their garden and her bone density scan showed her bones were twice the density they’re supposed to be for someone of her age. Her father, eating a simple, traditional diet, lived to be a very healthy 92 – he was still walking 2 miles a day, living on his own and mentally still sharp when he died.

      I am more and more convinced – eating traditional, unprocessed foods is the only way to go.

  3. Good morning! How much fermented cod liver oil would you need to take in order to discontinue other Vitamin D supplements? Thank you.

  4. Hi, what a nice article, I’m lucky that I love lard 🙂
    Btw Ann Marie, you wrote some time before, that you have/had keratosis pilaris on your arms. Did you manage to fix this problem? and if yes, what did you eat for that reason?
    I’m asking, because I have the same problem and I hate it :-/

  5. Good article, thanks for the info. One thing I wanted to point out is that most shrimp is now farmed, and like other farmed fish apparently not fed a very heathy or natural diet, and other toxins also end up in the lovely farmed situation. You’re probably aware of this, but I wanted to mention it as I see you made a point to mention benefits of pastured eggs and pork and wild salmon. I know it’s overwhelming dealing with all the issues with food and this is yet another one.

    I LOVE shrimp, but I am less interested in it since it’s now pretty consistently contaminated..along with so many other things. I have found wild Argentinian shrimp at Trader Joe’s. These were frozen and tasted okay and price was pretty good, but fresh or frozen wild shrimp at most grocery stores is pretty pricey. I used to enjoy big, fat, juicy shrimp at a great chinese restaurant – now I won’t enjoy those nearly as often.

    Just did a little googling:

  6. My D is chronically low no matter how much sun I get, what I eat or how much I supplement. And my calcium levels are normal so it isn’t a parathyroid issue. I feel like such a failure having spent years trying to get my D even as high as the low levels a conventional doctor thinks is okay.

    1. hello jmr, i was readind ur reply about ur low vitamin D no matter what u do so i would like to share with u a natural remedy SO FAMOUS in our arabian culture, and the secret lays in the FIGS.
      ALL u do is each night take 1 DRIED fig and slice the upper half for water to go through it properly drop the dried fig in a glass cup and pour drinking water room temparture on it then cover and let it soak through the night . when u wake up first thing in the morning drink the water alllll of it and eat the soaked figs, no yucky mucky face 😀 its a MUST.keep this routine with ur daily exposure to the sun and consume dairy products twice daily+ eat salmon fish twice a week . also recommanded if u consume seafood daily for 1 week.keep up with all these advices for 1 month daily except the one week only seafood consumption and im sure ur vit D will boost,i say this from experience my level was 22. wish u best of luck and health from Saudi Arabia. REGARDS..DOLY

  7. I never get sick anymore. I used to get sick quite a bit because I had a compromised immune system – I had cancer and the chemo beat me up. However, that was also a miracle – the doctors gave me 6 months to live, and I’m still here 10 years later. The credit goes to God – He answered my prayers and the prayers of my husband, parents, church, etc. Plus to my husband for making me tons of fresh squeezed organic juices, picking up raw milk, cream, yogurt and butter from an organic farm that was 4 hours away (we’d get enough for a months and store it in our church’s freezer). And to me for doing the research that helped me figure out that the SAD is cancer causing.

    However, since the cancer, I have had immune issues until the last couple of years. The change? I started eating more raw milk yogurt and supplementing with vitamin D. I’ve also been using almost exclusively healthy oils in my cooking – coconut oil, lard from pastured pigs, beef tallow from pastured cows (great for home-made French fries), and pastured butter. I recently started taking the fermented cod liver oil and my skin is glowing. This healthy living works!

  8. You may be giving permission to eat bacon and all it’s chemical additives and saturated fat; however, your advice is contrary to God’s explicit command: You will not eat the flesh of swine.

    He who has ears to hear, let him hear.

  9. My doctor told me many years ago- the only way any human beings can get enough vitamin D from sunlight is if we “danced naked on the equator” lol. Sunscreen and clothing get in the way of absorption…plus vitamin D tends to be stored in our fat cells. The only way I have been able to get my numbers up to the low normal range is through supplementation 5000/daily.

  10. Love this list. makes getting enough Vit D really doable. But I do think it nees to be said that bacon needs to be from free range pigs.

  11. When going for the lard get it from pastured pigs.. According to a NY researcher who contacted us for samples the pastured pig’s have a high Vitamin D content in their back fat due to their exposure to the sun. He was comparing it in his research to factory farmed pigs that are kept indoors. One more benefit of pastured livestock.

  12. Thanks to the guidelines of the wonderful
    I want to share with you the subject of a similar

  13. @Ann Marie: Re: “Unfortunately, the lard you buy on the shelf is usually homogenized, and therefore does not contain the full value of naturally rendered lard.”

    I think you’re confusing homogenized with hydrogenated. Actually it’s even worse than that for store shelf lard, such as Armour brand, lots of chemical preservatives included, Yuck!

    But wait, there’s more. I’ve found comments on other sites claiming that lard is naturally hydrogenated. How can that be, as hydrogenation is a factory process? Other organic farm websites selling lard are claiming their fresh rendered lard is not hydrogenated, which would make more sense to be true, and for sure, would be a better choice than commercial brands.

    Follow this link to a short forum discussion on hydrogenated lard, other great lard info in links within this one:


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  15. Nice one Ann Marie! Thanks.
    15 minutes of sun exposure is enough provided the sun is high enough above you, i.e. your shadow is shorter than you 😉

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