Can I get vitamin D from my diet?

Vitamin D is found naturally in several foods and is also added to others, which can contribute to your daily vitamin D requirements. The flesh of fatty fish including salmon, tuna and mackerel, and fish liver oils are among the best food sources.1 An 85g serving of salmon provides about 440IU of vitamin D and a can of tuna provides approximately 150IU.1 Small amounts of vitamin D are also found in the following foods:

  • Eggs from hens that have been fed vitamin D2 – One large egg supplies about 40IU.1
  • UV-irradiated mushrooms – Some mushrooms have enhanced levels of vitamin D from being exposed to ultraviolet light in controlled conditions.1
  • Beef liver1
  • Some types of cheese – A serving of Swiss cheese provides around 6IU1
  • A variety of fortified food1,2 – Milk may contain added vitamin D as does some brands of orange juice, breakfast cereals, yoghurt, margarine, soy milk and other food products.

Is diet enough for my vitamin D needs?

Our bodies obtain most of the vitamins and minerals they need from the food we eat but when it comes to vitamin D, diet is not sufficient. There are only a few foods that naturally contain vitamin D and most foods that contain it only provide small amounts. It is therefore in effect impossible to obtain what the body needs from food alone. In fact, most people only gain 5-10% of their vitamin D requirements from their diet.3

Food can contribute to our overall vitamin D levels but it is important to include other sources to support our bone, muscle, immune and general health. There are only two reliable ways of receiving adequate vitamin D and that is through exposing bare skin to sunlight and by taking vitamin D supplements.

The best source of vitamin D is through sensible exposure to the sun. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from sunlight stimulates the production of vitamin D in the epidermis of the skin. Most people will receive the vitamin D they need from just several minutes in the sun through summer. Longer exposure times are needed in winter and in southern locations of Australia.4

Those people who have inadequate sun exposure are at a greater risk of vitamin D deficiency and may benefit from a daily vitamin D supplement. These groups include the elderly, those who have darker skin tones and those who wear concealing clothing for cultural or religious reasons.