You’ve probably heard the buzz about Vitamin D, often called the “sunshine vitamin”. It’s well-known for its essential role in bone health, immune function, and mood regulation.
Despite the many benefits of vitamin D, most of us aren’t getting enough of it: almost 1 in 4 Australians have a mild or moderate vitamin D deficiency. Our bodies can produce vitamin D naturally via sunlight, but dietary sources can also help us ‘top up’ this essential nutrient.
If you want to boost your Vitamin D levels naturally, this article is for you! Below, I’ve listed the top foods containing vitamin D, from highest to lowest.
As a nutritionist, I’ve noticed many other articles on vitamin D foods aren’t relevant to Australian diets. Some even have outdated nutritional information! That’s why I’ve put together my own list for you, including many popular Aussie foods (like barramundi).
I’ve used the Australian Food Composition Database for Vitamin D content, so you know everything here is reliable.
You’ll find some of my favourite healthy recipes at the end of the article, too. It’s the ultimate guide to getting more vitamin D on your family’s plates.
Let’s dive right in!
Can I Get Vitamin D from my Diet?
As a nutritionist, I always recommend dietary sources over supplementation where possible. However, in the case of vitamin D, the best option is neither of those things!
Sunlight exposure is actually the best source of vitamin D. We only obtain about 10 percent of our daily vitamin D from food. Most foods have a low vitamin D concentration, so consuming the required volume is challenging. For example, you’d need to eat 1-2kg of regular mushrooms per day to meet Australian RDI guidelines – yikes!
Diet does play a role in meeting our vitamin D needs, though. Certain foods – like eggs, oily fish and pork – can satisfy our daily intake in just one serving.
Plus, most food sources of vitamin D are pretty nutritious anyway, offering plenty of other vital vitamins and minerals. The bottom line: there’s no reason not to include these foods in your diet!
Keen to learn more? Keep reading as we look closer at the vitamin D in food.
Dietary Forms of Vitamin D: Which is Better?
Vitamin D exists in several forms, but the two major ones are:
- Vitamin D2 (Ergocalciferol): The plant-based form of vitamin D, it’s produced when certain fungi and yeasts are exposed to UV light. The most common source of D2 is light-exposed mushrooms.
- Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol): This is the form of vitamin D our bodies naturally produce in the sun. In dietary form, you can find vitamin D3 in meat, fish and egg yolks.
Both plant and animal forms of vitamin D are well absorbed in humans. If you’re weighing up the two, vitamin D3 from meat and eggs raises blood concentrations more effectively than vitamin D2.
However, the difference isn’t critical – so feel free to choose the sources of vitamin D that best suit your diet.
There are plenty to choose from, and you’ll find a list of 20 foods packed with vitamin D below.
Top 18 Foods Containing Vitamin D (Listed Highest to Lowest)
Now for the main feature: the ultimate list of foods high in vitamin D.
I’ve included vitamin D values from the Australian Food Composition Database. Remember that these values are approximate, so you can expect natural variation in meat or produce.
For Recommended Daily Intake, I’m referring to the Australian government’s guideline of 200IU (or 5 micrograms) of vitamin D daily. This figure is for healthy adults up to 50 years of age – if you’re over 50, get less sunlight, or have a vitamin D deficiency, you may need more than this.
Don’t miss my favourite recipes with these fantastic foods at the end!
Let’s take a look at the top foods containing vitamin D:
1. Mushrooms (Vitamin D Enhanced)
1720 IU per 100g (860% RDI)
Mushrooms are one of the few plant foods that naturally contain vitamin D. Regular mushrooms have quite a small amount – just 160 IU – but when specially light-treated, levels can be up to 10 times higher!
Vitamin D-enhanced mushrooms pack the ultimate punch, with about eight times your RDI. They’re an excellent pick for those on a vegetarian or vegan diet since most sources of vitamin D are animal-based.
In Australia, vitamin D-enhanced mushrooms are becoming available in supermarkets. Alternatively, you can simply place your store-bought mushrooms in the midday sun for a couple of hours before cooking.
Mushrooms are incredibly versatile – they can be cooked in countless ways, from roasting to stir-frying. They’re low in calories, so you can easily add them to any dish. It’s a great way to make your meat go further and eat healthy on a budget.
527IU per 100g (263% RDI)
Barramundi is a mild-tasting fish that’s much-loved in Australia. It’s a sustainable, low-mercury option packed with vitamin D – not to mention omega-3 fatty acids, iron, and zinc.
You can cook this fish any way you like: baked, grilled, poached or steamed. While it works in a classic battered or crumbed style, try barramundi pan-fried with lemon and garlic for a lighter twist.
Barramundi is a great mild pick for family meals since many kids find mackerel or sardines a bit strong in flavour. Good old barra always seems to go down a treat, though!
348IU per 100g (174% RDI)
Next on my list of high vitamin D foods is quail. It’s more of a gourmet pick in Australia – so even if you’ve never tried it, you might’ve seen it on Masterchef!
This underrated poultry option packs more vitamin D than chicken or turkey, plus iron, zinc, and other B vitamins.
Quail has a delicate flavour and pairs well with global cuisines, from sticky Asian plum sauce to classic Mediterranean flavours.
It’s also quite a small bird, so quail cooks quickly and easily. If you’re planning a dinner party, that equals less time in a hot kitchen! Unlike chicken, it’s okay for quail to be slightly pink in the centre when cooked.
240IU per 100g (120% RDI)
Pork is an underrated source of vitamin D. It’s a nutritious alternative to poultry or fish and brings some variety to your dinner table.
For cuts highest in vitamin D, go for pork scotch, loin, or rump steak. Opt for healthy lean cuts of meat from a local butcher, and don’t be afraid to ask questions about where the meat is sourced.
Avoid processed pork products such as ham and bacon – since these can contain unhealthy levels of salt or added sugar. While lunch meats do contain vitamin D, they’re certainly not the healthiest picks either.
Of course, there are plenty of tasty ways to prepare pork. My recommendation is stir-fried with lots of veg!
226 IU per 100g (113% RDI)
There’s a good reason oily fish top my list of best fish to eat – they’re packed with nutrition! For a small fish, sardines boast a supersized nutrition profile, too.
The health benefits of sardines include plenty of vitamin D, B12 and omega-3 fatty acids. A single serving of grilled sardines provides 5.65 ug of vitamin D, more than 100% of your daily vitamin D requirement.
Many of us associate sardines with ‘canned in tomato sauce’. However, there are plenty of great ways to enjoy these pint-sized fish. Try garlic, lemon juice and herbs for a zingy toast-topper! They’re also delicious on salads.
214 IU per 100g (107% RDI)
Oily fish like salmon is an excellent source of vitamin D and other essential nutrients like protein and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s a great addition to salads, soups and grain bowls or even just served with a side of veggies!
A 100g serving of cooked salmon provides about 5 micrograms of vitamin D, which is more than the recommended daily intake for most individuals. Keep in mind that wild-caught salmon has more vitamin D than farmed fish – about four times more, in fact!
If you’re looking for a budget-friendly option, canned pink salmon contains over 400IU of vitamin D per 100g – that’s just one tiny can!
208 IU per 100g (104% RDI)
Anchovies are another surprising source of vitamin D. Chances are you won’t be tucking into a full plate of them – but they’re a great flavour boost for your pizza and pasta recipes.
As a bonus, anchovies also contain omega-3 fatty acids and B vitamins. As small fish, they’re also low in mercury.
If you’re worried about the sodium in anchovies, rinse canned or jarred anchovies in cold water before adding them to your dish.
PS. If you’ve never tried anchovies in a salad, you’re missing out!
8. Egg Yolks
129 IU per yolk (64% RDI)
Eggs are another great source of vitamin D – plus, they’re quick and easy to cook! If you’re after nutrition, be sure to eat the yolks and not just the whites.
Egg yolks are nutrition bombs and a great natural source of vitamin D. While the vitamin D content may vary depending on the hen’s diet, one large egg yolk typically provides about 129 IU of vitamin D.
That’s over half your daily vitamin D requirement – so make it two eggs, and you’re golden! Of course, eggs also give us high-quality protein, plus essential nutrients such as choline and lutein.
The cholesterol in eggs has long been proven beneficial – but in case you need further clarification, two of my recommended readings are Cholesterol Clarity by Jimmy Moore and Eat The Yolks by Liz Wolfe.
Of course, eggs are a breakfast staple, whether they’re scrambled, poached or boiled. They also make a protein-rich snack during the day and are a great addition to salads or curries.
108 IU per 100g (54% RDI)
I bet this got your attention! Yes some people do eat goat, it’s not the top of my list but hey, let’s take a look anyway! If you’re looking for an alternative red meat, goat is a novel protein to consider. Goat has fewer calories than beef, plus loads of protein and iron – not to mention a hefty dose of vitamin D! A 100g serving supplies over half of the recommended daily intake for Australians.
Goat can be cooked like any other red meat and is a popular option in many cultures for curries, stews or roasts. Cooking low and slow helps the meat stay nice and tender.
If you’re feeling adventurous, why not try some classic goat dishes from around the world? From Middle Eastern kebabs to Indian curries, plenty of delicious recipes are out there.
10. Chicken, Turkey & Duck
104 IU per 100g (52% RDI)
You might be surprised that your Sunday roast chook is an excellent source of vitamin D. In fact, this applies to all poultry, including turkey and duck.
A 100g serving of cooked chicken supplies about 5 micrograms of vitamin D – over half your daily vitamin D requirement. As a bonus, dark meat contains more of this essential nutrient than white meat.
Turkey and duck are two other poultry picks high in vitamin D. Turkey is a fantastic lean source of protein, while duck is a richer and fattier bird better for eating in moderation.
Of course, poultry is incredibly versatile – from sandwiches, salads or curries, you can’t go wrong! For the best quality and nutrition, always opt for free-range poultry.
92 IU per 100g (46% RDI)
Tuna is another excellent source of vitamin D. A 100g serving of yellowfin tuna provides 92 IU or 46 percent of the recommended daily intake. It’s also a good source of protein and selenium – an essential mineral for thyroid health.
Canned tuna is also a great source of vitamin D – with 75.6 IU (37% RDI) in a small 70g can. Tuna can be eaten in salads, sandwiches or even on its own for a protein-packed snack!
Enjoy canned tuna stirred through some whole-wheat pasta with lemon juice or in your favourite fishcake recipe (you can find mine below).
92 IU per Tbsp (46% RDI)
Lard is highly nutrient-rich, and a 1-tablespoon serve contains almost 100 IU of vitamin D. Yes, you read that right – lard is also one of our richest dietary sources of vitamin D.
Lard is also high in fat-soluble vitamins A and E, essential for healthy skin and eyesight.
How can you use lard in your diet? Simply rotate with your cooking oil, coconut oil and grass-fed butter. You can use lard in a variety of dishes, including pie crusts and casseroles.
92 IU per 100g (46% RDI)
Trout is a popular fish to consider for your next seafood feast. It has a delicious flavour that pairs well with many other fresh ingredients and contains a decent percentage of your daily vitamin D.
Like most oily fish, trout also provides omega-3 fatty acids and other essential minerals. Plus, it’s relatively easy to cook – personally, I love using smoked trout instead of smoked salmon.
92 IU per 100g (46% RDI)
Mackerel is another oily fish with a high vitamin D content. It’s also a great source of omega-3s, B vitamins and minerals like selenium and phosphorus. I’m actually a fan of incorporating mackerel into our diet as it’s a great alternative to salmon, which creates variation.
One serving of cooked mackerel provides 2.3 micrograms of Vitamin D or 46 percent of the recommended daily intake.
Mackerel isn’t the most common pick in Australia, but it’s surprisingly versatile. It’s delicious grilled, or use it in your favourite seafood recipes. Ask your local seamonger if they stock it.
84 IU per 100g (42% RDI)
Oysters are another excellent source of vitamin D. Not only do they contain 2.1 micrograms of vitamin D in every 100g serving, but they’re also a good source of zinc and iron. Of course, they’re also well-known as a natural libido booster!
Oysters can be prepared in a variety of ways – but oyster aficionados will swear that fresh is best! They may not be the cheapest way to get your vitamin D fix, but it’s great to know this luxury appetiser is nutritious too.
16. Flake (Shark), Snapper, Tilapia, Flathead, Bassa
80 IU per 100g (40% RDI)
If you’re after a fish-and-chips dinner, chances are that one of these fish will be on the menu.
Flake (or shark meat) is popular in Australia thanks to its low cost and mild flavour. Other popular white fish options include snapper, tilapia and flathead. Like other seafood, all of these options are high in vitamin D.
One 100g serve provides 40 percent of the recommended daily intake, which helps boost your vitamin D levels.
Of course, Aussies love our fish with beer batter or a crispy crumb. However, all these fish are incredibly versatile – you can bake, fry, poach or steam them. For a low-fat alternative to deep frying, try coating fillets in an almond meal crumb and baking them – delicious!
17. Beef Liver
49 IU per 100g (4% RDI)
Beef liver is an excellent source of micronutrients, including vitamins D & B, plus minerals like selenium, phosphorus, iron and zinc. One serving of beef liver provides about 4 percent of the recommended daily vitamin D intake.
Like many organ meats, beef liver has been phased out of our usual diets, but it’s a very versatile meat. From frying to baking, it pairs well with all the flavours used for beef. You can work liver into your regular meal plan by adding to your favourite winter soups, stew or casserole.
As always, for the healthiest meats to eat, please choose grass-fed where possible – it’s a better choice for optimal nutrition and sustainable farming practices.
18. Fortified Products
Fortified milk: 20 IU per cup (7% RDI)
Certain foods are fortified with vitamin D to help individuals meet their daily requirements. These include fortified milk, margarine, cheese, juice, yogurt, breakfast cereals, and plant-based milk alternatives like soy milk and almond milk.
Historically, fortified foods have helped tackle nutritional gaps, especially for low-income families. It’s one reason why childhood diseases like rickets are rare today!
If you’re keen to boost your vitamin D intake, other foods on the list are much better value for money.
How to Increase Vitamin D Absorption
When it comes to dietary vitamin D, it’s important to note that cooking techniques can affect nutrient content.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so it’s easy to assume cooking methods that involve frying or grilling in oil can help retain more Vitamin D. However, studies show steamed fish retains more vitamin D, though the difference isn’t large.
The biggest difference is in the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D rather than what’s retained in the food. Generally, it’s vital to maintain healthy dietary fat levels for the body to absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in food.
Best Healthy Vitamin D Recipes to Try
Now you know the best dietary sources of vitamin D, it’s time to get cooking!
These recipes showcase some of our top 10 foods containing vitamin D. From seafood to mushrooms; there’s something for everyone.
If you’re looking for an easy way to incorporate more vitamin D-rich foods into your diet, try out some of these delicious recipes:
- Crumbed Fishy Cakes: These tasty fish cakes are a hit with kids! My recipe uses canned tuna, but you can easily use salmon too.
- Mushroom Greens & Ricotta on Sourdough: Use vitamin-D-enriched mushrooms to supercharge this brunch dish! You can even top it with a poached egg for extra goodness.
- Crispy Chicken Wands: This freezer-friendly meal delivers plenty of vitamin D in the form of tasty chicken tenderloins.
- Spicy Seafood Stew: Swap the marinara mix for your choice of oily fish to boost the vitamin D content of this winter dish.
- Ginger & Coriander Dumplings: Try these delicious dumplings with half chicken mince and half vitamin D mushrooms.
- Smoked Trout Patties: Delicious and versatile, these patties make great appetisers. Add to a bun or wrap for a healthy burger alternative!
These are just a few of the fabulous vitamin D-rich foods available to us in Australia. Adding more of these to your meals can help keep your vitamin D levels topped up – and you’ll enjoy some delicious meals in the process!
If you struggle to meet your daily requirements through diet and sunlight exposure, it’s worth talking to a healthcare professional. Your GP, nutritionist or naturopath can evaluate whether you need vitamin D supplements.
It’s important to understand the difference between deficiency and insufficiency. Many holistic doctors and practitioners prefer Vitamin D levels to be on the higher side of ‘normal’. For example serum Vitamin D levels between 50-200nmol/L is considered ‘normal’, but for optimal health, I prefer all my clients to be higher than 80nmol/L.
Remember that although Vitamin D is essential for health, too much of this vitamin can be toxic, so I recommend including it in your annual blood tests. Vitamin D levels are usually lowest at the end of winter, so it’s a great time to get tested.
Incorporating some of these vitamin D-rich foods into your diet is also a great way to boost your Vitamin D levels, along with supplementing if insufficient or deficient. Try some of my vitamin-D-packed recipes for the tastiest way to boost your intake, and help your body function at its best!