A Detailed Scoop on Vitamin D Rich Foods and Why You Need Them [+ free recipes]

by Maria Amir
A Detailed Scoop on Vitamin D Rich Foods and Why You Need Them [+ free recipes]

We loved the sun as children. The early morning sun rays were the ultimate cure for uninvited body chills, fevers, colds, and seasonal allergies. This was the goodness of Vitamin D. 

Commonly known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is one of the most powerful and essential vitamins for the human body. Vitamin D is a steroid hormone, manufactured from the good cholesterol fat’ when you are exposed to sunlight. The goodness of vitamin D is of utmost importance for the cellular function and maintenance of our body. 

The Only Vitamin in humans that is produced by the human body. Keep on reading to learn more!

Despite its importance, it’s rare to get sufficient vitamin D in your system from the sun only. This is why it’s necessary to obtain Vitamin D from different supplements in your diet. 

In this article, we would walk you through a complete understanding of what is vitamin D, how it works, and what are some sources of Vitamin D other than the sun; plus FREE RECIPES!! 

Vitamin D- A Major Health Benefactor! 

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a highly fat-soluble vitamin. This suggests that it dissolves in a fatty medium, such as fats and oils, and therefore can be stored for a long time. 

There are two main dietary forms of Vitamin D 

  •  Vitamin D3- Typically found in animal products such as egg yolks, fatty fish, and fish oil. 
  •  Vitamin D2 – often derived from plants such as mushrooms and yeast.

D3 Vitamin is more effective for the regulation and accumulation of our metabolic health. 

Did you know? Vitamin D is the only Vitamin stored in your body and not excreted as a byproduct, unlike other vitamins!

Vitamin D obtained from sun exposure, foods, and supplements are biologically inert and must undergo two hydroxylations (an oxidation step in breaking down complex molecules to more soluble molecules) in the body for activation. 

How Vitamin D works?

Vitamin D has to go through a two-step process to fully function and play its role. When we first receive vitamin D through sun or a dietary supplement, it is usually inert (inactive) form. It goes through ‘hydroxylation’ (an oxidation step in breaking down complex molecules to more soluble molecules) in the liver as a first step and then another hydroxylation in the kidney to finally convert into an active vitamin D3 form. 

The mechanism is already built in your system, all you have to do is take more sun and nourish your body with vitamin D-rich foods. To know more about such foods, keep on reading!

Why is Vitamin D important for us?

For healthy functioning, vitamin D happens to be a key nutrient for our body. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in calcium absorption and maintains bone health it is also a key component in preventing tissue damage, cramps, and involuntary muscle contractions.

 Vitamin D availability is even more required for newborn babies, as they develop for bone remodeling. Without sufficient vitamin D, bones become brittle, misshapen, and weak. This is one of the major reasons when children start walking, they develop rickets in which their legs are turned outwardly due to soft bones. In adults, vitamin D prevents osteoporosis that becomes inevitable with growing age, given if you are not careful about your health from an early age. 

Some other important roles played by vitamin D are 

  • Reduce inflammation
  • Cell growth 
  • Protein enhancement
  • Regulation of neuromuscular
  • Enhancement of immune system
  •  A building block in many cell rejuvenation and restoring proteins. 

Fact Check! Neither aging nor obesity alters vitamin D absorption from the gut. Even if you are 50+, you can start with vitamin D-rich foods or dietary supplements today!

Important Sources of Vitamin D

The Good Old’ Sun 

Maybe those early childhood sunburns were not that bad after all…

One of the reasons why as children we are encouraged to play outside in the sun is because of the richness of vitamin D. Vitamin D is the only vitamin that comes directly from the sun. The interesting phenomenon of absorbing vitamin D from sunbathing a few times a week is a literal treat for those of us who do not like multivitamin supplements. But here comes a twist!

‘Did you know that your facial skin will absorb much more vitamin D than your skin on your hands and legs? What’s more, rubbing sunscreen will also decrease your chances of getting the most out of this amazing vitamin D richness. But hey! You still need that sunscreen!’

The cholesterol (good fat) in our skin dissolves Vitamin D and immediately starts working against any health risks such as diabetes type 1.

Certainly, the harsh sun of summers may not be a promising sunbathing time for us all. Thereby, there are many vitamin D-rich foods that we add to our daily diet to avoid brittle bones and other health conditions. 

Vitamin D rich foods

Oily Fatty Fish

Salmon is the most popular choice for vitamin D, but understanding our demographics, salmon is not always available in the market. Trout fish is one of the most popular and easy fish available in Pakistan and not to mention one of the tastiest as well. Trout is rich in vitamin D and provides a whopping 500-600 IU of vitamin D. 

If you prefer salmon, it is also a great source of vitamin D and has 988 IU of vitamin D in it. 

Recipe: To simply get the best out of it, simply get a fatty oily fish of your choice and make sure it is wild and not farm fed as it happens to have more vitamin D concentration. Wash it well and peel off the skin if you like. Now salt the fish well and bake it using a big dollop of organic butter or ghee. Once it is baked through simply squeeze a fresh lemon and you have a tasty vitamin D ready for you. 


Now, who does not love the smooth tuna? 

Tuna packs up almost 268 UI of vitamin D in it and can be simply spread and enjoyed on a slice of toast each morning 

Recipe: Simply get a canned tuna from your local grocery store. Toast two pieces of bread of your choice. In a bowl, mix mayonnaise, canned tuna, finely chopped cucumbers, and dill. Now take this mixture and apply it to your toasted bread

Egg yolks 

Not many people have a palate for seafood. Some people even have allergies to seafood. In that case, egg yolks are a nutritious pack of vitamin D. one average egg yolk contains 371 IU of vitamin D. Enjoy your eggs however way you like it! 

Vitamin D Vegetables 


If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, mushrooms are an excellent plant-based source of vitamin D. like us, mushrooms synthesize their vitamin D directly from sunlight. Mushrooms provide vitamin d2 which is an essential source in increasing blood levels for absorption of more vitamin D. a 100-gram serving of wild mushrooms contains 2300 IU. 

Recipe: Finely chop and sauté a cup of wild mushrooms in salted butter, onions, and a half teaspoon of brown sugar. Once they are caramelized, you can add them as a side dish or top them on your sandwiches for a delicious caramelized taste. 

Vitamin D Fruits 

Fortified Orange Juice 

Some people are allergic to eggs and may not always be keen on consuming mushrooms. This is why fortified orange juices have a decent concentration of vitamin D in them. One cup (237 ml) of fortified orange juice will get you started with 100IU of Vitamin D

The following table contains a detailed list of all the foods rich in Vitamin D

Micrograms(mcg) perservingInternationalUnits (IU)per servingPercent DV*
Cod liver oil – in capsules, 1 tablespoon34.01,360170
Trout 16.264581
Salmon 14.257071
Mushrooms, raw and exposed to UV light, ½ cup9.236646
Fortified Milk, 2% milkfat,1 cup2.912015
Vitamin D fortified soy, almond, and oat milk, 2.5-3.6100-14413-18
Vitamin D fortified, ready-to-eat cereals 1 serving2.08010
Egg, 1 large, 1.1446
Liver, beef, 1.0425
Tuna fish (light), canned1.0405
Cheese, cheddar, 1 ounce0.3122
Table 1: List of Foods Rich in Vitamin D

Vitamin D Tablets

Vitamin D tablets are prescribed to people who are going through severe vitamin D deficiency. Usually, it is not advised to take vitamin D supplements, as taking too many of them can reverse its benefits. Instead of strengthening bones, it weakens them and also damages your kidneys and heart. If you must take them by all means do not choose to take vitamin D supplements over 10 micrograms a day. 

Vitamin D Injections

In place of an oral supplement, vitamin D can also be given in form of an injection. There are vitamin D3 injections readily available. Unlike multivitamins and supplements, injections need to be prescribed by the doctor first. 

Vitamin D related to other Vitamins 

Most natural fruits and vegetables have multiple vitamins such as Vitamin A, K, E, and B. This is why taking vitamin D with any of the other vitamins is a safe bet. Many people have different sources of vitamin D and prefer to consume it with another vitamin such as vitamin C. on the other hand most people prefer all the essential nutrients in one tablet in the form of a multivitamin. Needless to say, mixing vitamins is completely safe unless there is some health condition involved. In that case, consult with your healthcare practitioner straight away. 

Correlation Between Vitamin D and Calcium

Calcium and vitamin D work together for bone development. We all know our bones are made up of 99.5% of calcium however, calcium becomes only useful once we have an adequate amount of vitamin D in our system. 

Groups/ People at Risk of Vitamin D Inadequacy 

Obtaining enough vitamin D from no fortified food sources is alone quite difficult. While consuming vitamin D-rich foods is sufficient for some people, some groups are more at risk of getting vitamin deficiency. 

Breastfed infants

Human milk alone does not provide complete vitamin D nutrition and is also dependent on the amount of vitamin D in the mother. However, a child is not to be exposed in sun before 6 months and should be protected against sun rays by all means. If you suspect a vitamin D deficiency in your newborn, you should ask your nutritionist for an alternate method right away. 

Older adults

 they are simply more prone to vitamin D deficiency more so because they are more likely to spend their time indoors. They might also have an inadequate dietary intake of the vitamin. 

People with limited sun exposure

 people who are homebound, and are always protecting themselves from the sun can also get vitamin D deficiency. Excessive use of sunscreen also forms a protective layer against vitamin D absorption. Although the sun is an excellent source of vitamin D, it is also equally important to protect yourself against harmful rays of sunlight. This is why getting sun rays in the earliest hours of the day is the best source of vitamin D for you. 

People with dark skin

Fact Alert! Asians and Africans are prone to vitamin deficiency just because of their skin color. 

Greater amounts of melanin on your skin layer reduce your skin’s ability to absorb sunlight and then produce vitamin D. In an interesting study, black Americans showed lower vitamin D serum accumulation into their skin as compared to white Americans and hence have less history of osteoporosis and bone fractures.  

People with conditions that limit fat absorption

As vitamin D is a highly fat-soluble vitamin nutrient, its absorption is heavily dependent on the good fat in your gut. One of the major reasons why people who go on diets or go through extreme weight loss, often develop vitamin deficiency. People with liver, kidney, or some kind of disease can also lead to gut malabsorption. Deprivation of fat accumulation for a long time will result in not absorption of vitamin D effectively. Some people due to their lactose intolerance, allergy to mushrooms, or some other inability to not eat certain foods, can also develop vitamin D deficiency. 

People who are obese or have gone through some gut process

 While obesity does not decrease the skin’s ability to synthesize vitamin D, People who have a BMI of 30 or more will create low levels of vitamin D serums. Similarly, if anyone has gone through a gut complication due to bypass surgery or any other gastric issues, absorption of vitamin D through natural means will drastically decrease, making the person rely on external supplements. 

Vitamin D Daily Intake and Requirements

Daily vitamin D intake varies following gender, age, and demographics of a person. According to NIH, here is a recommended dietary allowance of Vitamin D. 

Table 2
0-12 months*10 mcg(400 IU)10 mcg(400 IU)
1–13 years15 mcg(600 IU)15 mcg(600 IU)
14–18 years15 mcg(600 IU)15 mcg(600 IU)15 mcg(600 IU)15 mcg(600 IU)
19–50 years15 mcg(600 IU)15 mcg(600 IU)15 mcg(600 IU)15 mcg(600 IU)
51–70 years15 mcg(600 IU)15 mcg(600 IU)
>70 years20 mcg(800 IU)20 mcg(800 IU)
Table 2: Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin D 

Please note in case of diabetes, heart complication, or special health circumstance the dietary requirement for individuals may change. 

Vitamin D deficiencies

Vitamin D deficiency occurs, when the kidney is unable to convert inert vitamin D into its active form. As mentioned earlier there can be multiple reasons that may put people at risk of vitamin D deficiencies. Here are some consequences of developing Vitamin D deficiencies in both children and adults. 

  • Rickets
  • Bone deformities and Pain 
  • Seizures 
  • Dental abnormalities 
  • Developmental delay 
  • Osteomalacia
  • An indirect health complication for people with diabetes, heart, lung, and gut functioning.

Excessive use of Vitamin D  

The top upper limit advised regardless of any deficiency is 4,000 IU per day. Despite this upper limit, in NIH research Vitamin D toxicity does not develop until the daily intake surpasses 10,000 IU. 

So what does overcompensation of vitamin D does to you?

Interestingly it does the same as what vitamin D deficiency will. Excessive consumption will lead to over calcification of bones, blood vessels, kidney, and lung tissues. Some of the signs and symptoms can be:

  • Nausea
  • Loss of appetite
  • A dry coarse mouth
  • Severe Diarrhea a consistent metallic taste 
  • Constipation 
  • Unexplained vomiting 

Since these symptoms can overlap with some other disease symptoms as well, rarely does it ever point out Vitamin D toxicity unless your doctor advised you a CBC test. 

What corona taught us regarding vitamin D Deficiencies? 

Due to its anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties, it is a crucial key moderator in activating our defense system. Vitamin D has also been known to enhance and activate our first lien of defense system cells through T cells and Macrophages. 

Does Vitamin D protect against COVID-19? 

There is no definite cure for COVID-19 as yet. However, in experimental studies, 235 COVID patients were provided significant vitamin D supplements in their daily diet. As result patients who were above the age of 40 were 51.5% less likely to have adverse effects of COVID such as losing consciousness, weakness, fatigue, body ache, hypoxia, and even death.  

Healthwire’s Take on Vitamin D

 Without a beat of a doubt, Vitamin D is important for our bodies.  Since we are not always spending much time in the sun and may not always eat our way through to big portions of seafood, supplementing on Vitamin D can be a favorable option. To know better about what supplements or multivitamins to take, kindly consult with one of our top nutritionists at Healthwire. pk to know what works best for you. 

Let us know in the comments below if you learned something new from this article, would love to hear your thought!

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1 comment

Zainab Seemab May 6, 2021 - 9:29 am

We are not taking full nutrition as our body needs. You have discussed it in a very well manner.
Thank you for the content need more content in the future.


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