Vitamin D - Sources Other Than Sunlight

Are you getting enough Vitamin D? Many people are worried about Vitamin D deficiency. Unlike other nutrients, Vitamin D isn't really a vitamin at all: It's a hormone, made by your body as you are exposed to sunlight. Whatever it is, it has an important role in maintaining bone strength (more research is coming out monthly on other diseases Vitamin D may help.). Bottom Line – If you don’t know you level (should be 50+) then find out and start taking some of these steps below.

If you eat a varied diet and get some sun (about 20 minutes a day, unfiltered by sunscreen) then you are probably getting all the Vitamin D you need from these sources. It is helpful however to be aware of foods that are higher in Vitamin D to help up your levels or keep them high. A good goal is to strive to achieve 600 IU of Vitamin D daily from the food you eat. Combine this with some sun and a small supplement and you can be a Vitamin D superstar!

This list includes the foods with the most Vitamin D, according to the USDA. Enjoy!

Salmon has by far the most Vitamin D of any food (and wild salmon has much more than farmed salmon, which unfortunately is cheaper and easier to find). Half a fillet of sockeye salmon has more than 1,400 IU of Vitamin D. The next-highest Vitamin D food, Pacific rockfish, has about one-third as much as salmon.

Sole or Flounder

Flatfish like sole and flounder have about one-fourth a day's worth of Vitamin D. (The other white fish, cod, has less than one-tenth.) Look for Pacific flounder, sole or cod at the fish market, because Atlantic stocks are depleted.


Sometimes dairy gets a bad rap but if you don’t have any lactose sensitivities Fortified milk has about one- fifth a day's worth of Vitamin D (whole milk has more than skim).


Like fortified milk, fortified cereal provides additional Vitamin D and it is quick and easy in the AM rush. The amount of Vitamin D in cereals varies widely by brand and type, though, so read the label carefully. The USDA found a range of Vitamin D levels in fortified cereals from 34 IU (about one-seventeenth of a daily dose) in corn flakes to 104 IU (about one-sixth a daily dose) in raisin bran.


A serving of tuna has a healthy dose of Vitamin D - more than one-third of a daily dose. Light tuna in oil has the most Vitamin D. (Light tuna in water has about one-fourth of a daily dose, while white tuna has about one-tenth. Light tuna also has less mercury than white tuna, making it a safer choice.) The other fish-in-a-can, sardines, also have a lot of Vitamin D - about one-fourth of a daily dose (along with a healthy dose of calcium), and pickled herring have about one-sixth of a daily dose. I would stick with the tuna (not sure I have many athletes who are eating pickled herring)


Three little ounces of pork can provide as much as 88 iu of Vitamin D – almost one-seventh of a daily dose. The most can be found in ribs, and the amount of Vitamin D in pork varies greatly by cut and preparation. You'll barely get any Vitamin D from a slice of ham.


Two large eggs have about one-tenth of a daily dose of Vitamin D. Eggs from truly free-range chickens, like those many are raising in backyards these days, are often more tasty and nutritious than the factory farmed kind so you can try these. If you are worried about cholesterol (mom and dads) then eat the two eggs and add in a couple extra egg whites for more protein.


Mushrooms can have a significant amount of Vitamin D, but the amount varies widely by type. Shiitake mushrooms (pictured) have 45 iu – about one-thirteenth of a daily serving of Vitamin D. White mushrooms, on the other hand, have just 5 iu.

Beef Liver

A 3-ounce portion of beef liver has more than 42 iu of Vitamin D – about one-fourteenth of a daily dose needed for someone who doesn't get much exposure to the sun. Beef is also one of the best sources of Vitamin B-12 and organ meats are one of the top sources of iron. If you're heading to the store for meat, look for grassfed beef to take advantage of additional nutrition, and more sustainable farming practices. We don’t advocate eating a lot of organ meet but we threw it in for completeness sake. Grass- fed beef in general again is good for iron and needed for most female athletes.

Ricotta Cheese

Ricotta cheese stands out among cheeses for its relatively high Vitamin D content. With 25 iu of Vitamin D, it would still take about 24 servings to get your daily dose solely from ricotta cheese
(not recommended). That said, ricotta has about five times as much Vitamin D as most other cheeses.

Summary : Some fish, some grass-fed beef, and a little dairy will go a long way in helping you achieve your Vitamin D goals.