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Vitamin D Foods and its Benefits | CK Birla Hospital

Vitamin D Foods

With the change in work patterns and increased time spent indoors a big lifestyle related vitamin deficiency prevalent in our society is the deficiency of Vitamin D. Which is why now more than ever it is vital to understand why this is important for us. 

Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble secosteroids responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of phosphate, magnesium and calcium and many other biological effects. The most important compounds in this group are vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 for humans.

Vitamin D impacts many functions related to the body, which includes bone health. When exposed to sunlight, our bodies produce vitamin D but getting it this way is hard. Vitamin D from supplements or food is best. Foods, including mushrooms, egg yolks and certain fish contain vitamin D. 

Most people don’t get enough vitamin D and it is estimated that 80% of adults in India have vitamin D deficiency. Research suggests that low vitamin D levels might be a risk factor for autoimmune diseases. Changing your diet may help prevent or reduce vitamin D deficiency. Whether you need a vitamin D supplement in addition to sun exposure and food is a question to ask your doctor and they can also check if you are deficient or not. 

What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is both a hormone our bodies make and a nutrient we eat. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that has long been known to help the body retain and absorb phosphorus and calcium; both are critical for building bones. 

Laboratory studies also show that vitamin D can reduce inflammation, help control infections and reduce cancer cell growth. 

Few foods contain vitamin D naturally, but some foods are fortified with vitamin D. Because it’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from foods like vegetables, supplements are the best way to get enough vitamin D for most people. 

Vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 are the 2 types of vitamin supplements. Both of these are natural forms that are produced in the presence of UVB (ultraviolet B) rays, hence the nickname “sun vitamins.” However, D2 is produced by plants and fungi, and D3 is produced by animals, including humans. 

The predominant natural supply of vitamin D is its production inside the skin. However, many people are deficient in vitamin D, either because they live in areas where the sun doesn’t shine in the winter, or because they spend limited time in the sun because they’re indoors. Darker-skinned people also tend to have lower levels of vitamin D in their blood because the pigment (melanin) acts like a shadow and reduces vitamin D production (and reduces harmful effects on skin by sunlight, including skin cancer).

What should be the Daily Dosage of Vitamin D?

The daily amount needed to maintain normal calcium metabolism and healthy bones in healthy people is provided by the Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D. 

For adults who are 19 years of age and older, it is 15 mcg daily; for women and men who are older than 70 years of age, it is 20 mcg daily. 

The maximum daily intake unlikely to cause harmful effects on health is known as  Tolerable Upper Intake Level. It is 100 mcg of vitamin D for children and adults who are 9 years of age and above. 

What are the Sources of Vitamin D?

Vitamin D comes from two primary sources:

Food Sources

Certain foods are naturally rich in vitamin D3. The best sources are fish liver oils and the flesh of fatty fish. Smaller amounts are found in cheese and egg yolks. Certain mushrooms contain vitamin D2. Additionally, some commercially available mushrooms contain higher levels of D2 due to intentional exposure to high levels of UV light. Many supplements and foods are fortified with vitamin D like cereals and dairy products. Some other food sources are:

  • Fortified cereals
  • Egg yolk
  • Plant and dairy milk fortified with vitamin D
  • Orange juice fortified with vitamin D
  • Cod liver oil

Ultraviolet Light

When the sun’s UVB radiation (tanning rays) breaks down the steroid 7-dehydrocholesterol, a chemical process occurs in human skin that produces vitamin D3. Vitamin intake varies greatly. The following conditions reduce exposure to UVB light and reduce vitamin D absorption:

  • Using sunscreen. Proper application of sunscreen reduces vitamin D absorption by more than 90%
  • Wearing full clothing that covers the skin.
  • Spending limited time outdoors.
  • Due to the high levels of melanin pigment in darker skin tones, it acts as a type of natural sunscreen.
  • As we age, our 7-dehydrocholesterol levels drop, skin changes become more noticeable, and we are more likely to spend more time indoors.

Also Read: Benefits of Taking Fish Oil

Which Foods are Rich in Vitamin D?

Here are some healthy foods which are high in vitamin D:

1. Cod Liver Oil

  • This is a popular supplement. Taking cod liver oil is another way to get nutrients if you don’t like fish.
  • At about 4.9 mL, it offers a massive 56% of the daily value. Treatment for a vitamin D-deficient person with this method dates back many years. Additionally, it has a history of usage in the management of rickets, psoriasis, and TB. 
  • With 150% of the recommended daily intake in only 4.9 mL, cod liver oil is also particularly rich in vitamin A. In excess, vitamin A can be hazardous. The safe upper limit for vitamin A is 3,000 mcg. The amount of vitamin A in a teaspoon (4.9 mL) of cod liver oil is 1,350 mcg. 
  • Make sure that you aren’t exceeding the upper limit with any vitamin A supplements or cod liver oil.
  • Additionally, cod liver oil is also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s may play a role in reducing inflammation in the body and heart health. Cod liver oil is another source of these fatty acids along with fatty fish. It can be hard to get enough omega-3 in your diet if you don’t eat fish. 

2. Egg Yolks

  • Whole eggs are a wonderfully nutritious food and another good source of vitamin D. 
  • Most of the protein in an egg is found in the white and the minerals, vitamins and fat are found mostly in the yolk.
  • The yolk from one large egg contains 5% of the daily value of vitamin D.
  • Some factors affect the vitamin D level of egg yolks. Exposing liquid yolk to UV light, the vitamin D content of the chicken feed and the sun exposure for the chicken increases vitamin D in the egg.    
  • Eggs from hens grown in the sunshine and on pasture have levels that are three to four times higher.  
  • Choosing eggs marketed high in vitamin D or from chickens raised outside can be a great way to meet your daily requirements.

3. Mushrooms

  • Mushrooms are the only sufficient non-animal source of vitamin D besides fortified foods. 
  • Mushrooms can synthesise vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet light like humans. 
  • Animals produce vitamin D3, however, mushrooms produce vitamin D2. Vitamin D2 helps increase blood levels of vitamin D, but it may not be as effective as vitamin D3. 
  • One cup of mushrooms contains vitamin D which is roughly 17% of the daily value, depending on the type of mushroom. 

4. Cow’s Milk

  • Cow’s milk is a naturally good source of many nutrients, including riboflavin, phosphorus and calcium. 
  • In several nations, cow’s milk is vitamin D-fortified. Usually, one cup of fortified cow’s milk contains vitamin D which is about 15% of the daily value. 

5. Soy Milk

  • Vegans and vegetarians may find it difficult to get enough vitamin D as it is exclusively found in animal products. 
  • For this reason, plant-based milk substitutes like soy milk are normally fortified with vitamin D, along with other nutrients typically found in cow’s milk.
  • The amount can vary depending on the brand. One cup contains vitamin D which is around 13–15% of the daily value.

6. Orange Juice 

  • Around 2% of people worldwide have a milk allergy and around 65% of people are lactose intolerant. 
  • For this reason, some companies fortify orange juice with nutrients (like calcium) and vitamin D. With breakfast, one cup of this fortified fruit juice can provide you with 12% of your recommended daily intake of vitamin D. 

7. Oatmeal and Cereal

  • Cereals are another food that might be fortified with vitamin D. 
  • One cup of fortified wheat bran flakes contains vitamin D equivalent to 18% of the daily value. One cup of fortified crisp rice cereal has vitamin D equal to 11% of the daily value.  
  • An important thing to consider is that not all cereals contain vitamin D. It is smart to check the nutrition label to ascertain how much vitamin D is in the product. Despite having less vitamin D than many natural sources, fortified oatmeal and cereals can still be a useful method to increase your consumption. 

What are the Benefits of Vitamin D Foods?

Vitamin D has numerous functions and roles, which include the following:

1. Bone Maintenance

  • Vitamin D regulates the circulating levels of phosphorus and calcium, which are the most important minerals for bone maintenance and growth. It encourages your body to absorb these elements from your food.

2. Immune System Regulation

  • It also strengthens and regulates your immune system function. 
  • Vitamin D supplements might also reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections and help to prolong people’s lives, especially older adults living in care facilities or those who are hospitalised.  


Vitamin D is an essential element required for bone health. To include it in sufficient quantities in your daily diet list, it is advisable to seek medical help from an experienced dietitian. Timely care and help can ensure a vitamin D-rich diet which is appropriate to your body’s requirements. 

At the CK Birla Hospital, we ensure patients get holistic medical support which includes treatment in a compassionate environment. This patient-centric approach not only helps patients heal better but also ensures they are aware of the preventive measures as well. In case you need to consult a dietitian, reach out to us, or book a direct appointment with Ms. Prachi Jain at the CK Birla Hospital.


How much Vitamin D must One take Daily?

The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 800 IU (international units) for people over 70 years, 600 IU for people aged 1 to 70 years and 400 IU for children up to age 12 months. 

What Happens when Your Vitamin D is Low?

Low vitamin D levels result in an increased risk of muscle weakness, muscle pain, bone fractures and bone pain. Severe vitamin D deficiency in older adults might also contribute to an increased risk of falls.

Why is My Vitamin D Low?

There can be numerous causes of vitamin D levels being low, including insufficient exposure to sunlight, darker skin pigment, malnutrition, certain medications and genetics. 

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