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Vitamin D Rich Food Sources—Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient which helps the body to absorb calcium, magnesium, and phosphate, which are essential for bone development.

  • 25 Jan 2023
  • 5 min read

Vitamins are essential to keep the body going. For the normal functioning of the body and a top-notch immune system, you must include vitamins and minerals in your diet. Vitamin deficiency can cause several health issues and trigger bigger health problems with serious consequences. Most body functions need direct and indirect vitamin support for execution. For example, vitamin D is essential for calcium absorption in the body. It means not having enough vitamin D can lead to issues related to calcium deficiency as well. Today, we will look at how vitamin D helps in maintaining good health and run you through a detailed list of Vitamin D food for vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that helps the body to absorb as well as retain calcium, phosphate, and magnesium—minerals essential for a healthy skeletal system. Vitamin D also controls cancer cells, checks infections, reduces inflammation, and boosts immunity. The daily amount needed to sustain healthy calcium metabolism and strong bones is referred to as the Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D. They are:

  • UL: The Tolerable Upper Intake Level (TUIL) is the largest daily intake that is unlikely to have a deleterious impact on health (UL). The UL for vitamin D in children aged 9 years and above is 4,000 IU (100 mcg).
  • RDA: For people aged 19 years and above, the recommended daily allowance is 600 IU (15 mcg). For those over 70 years, it is 800 IU (20 mcg).

Benefits of vitamin D

Vitamin D can reduce inflammation, restrict the growth of malignant cells, and assist in preventing infections. Besides supporting bone health, vitamin D is a major requirement in the normal functioning of many organs and tissues. Some benefits of vitamin D include:

  • Fights bone diseases: Vitamin D is an essential component for calcium absorption. Without vitamin D, you cannot have calcium in your body in active form. Absorption of calcium allows the body to maintain the required amount of phosphate in the body which is again essential for bone health and development.


  • Helps maintain good mental health: While it is not clear how essential vitamin D is in checking clinical depression, it is highly effective in managing seasonal depression. Since there is less sunlight in winter, the body absorbs relatively much lesser vitamin D. This adversely affects the neurotransmitter serotonin.


  • Fights respiratory infections: If you have a significantly low vitamin D level, chances are high that you may suffer from more respiratory issues such as cold and flu. Research shows that deficiency of Vitamin D can worsen the post-COVID consequences.


  • Protects against heart ailments and diseases: Adequate amount of vitamin D reduces the risks of heart failure, stroke, and several heart diseases. Medically, it is not clear if Vitamin D is solely responsible for the prevention of heart diseases, but it definitely helps.


  • Keeps the risks of diabetes in check: Cell-based observational studies show that vitamin D augments insulin sensitivity, improves beta cell function, and reduces inflammation. All these factors are extremely important in controlling Type 2 Diabetes.


  • Reduces cancer risk: More and more scientific sample studies are reinforcing the role of vitamin D in managing and reducing the threat of cancer. The potential correlation between vitamin D and colon cancer, ovarian cancer, breast cancer and prostate cancer is evident. Vitamin D helps in controlling the growth of cancer cells.


  • Guards against autoimmune conditions: Vitamin D plays a very important role in regulating the immune system, thus preventing autoimmune disorders. Studies show that people who intake or absorb sufficient vitamin D are less prone to autoimmune disorders such as arthritis, thyroid etc.


  • Helps check cognitive inefficiency and dementia: Our brain tissues have vitamin D receptors. This indicates the role of vitamin D in cognitive development and health. Since vitamin D enhances cognitive function, it also helps in preventing conditions such as dementia.


Top vitamin D-rich food items for vegetarians

Now that you are well aware of the importance of including vitamin D in your diet, it is only obvious that you would want to know about vitamin D foods. Given below is a list of vitamin D food for vegetarians. To ensure an adequate amount of vitamin D in your body, include these vitamin D-rich foods:

  • Fortified orange juice: Most store-bought fortified orange juice is supplemented with calcium and vitamin D, making it a reliable source of nutrition for lactose-intolerant people. One cup of enhanced orange juice has 100 IU of vitamin D.


  • Mushrooms: Similar to humans, mushrooms can produce Vitamin D when exposed to sunshine. With 2300 IU of vitamin D2 per 100g, they are rich in vitamin D. However, professionally raised mushrooms have very little vitamin D2. Although, some varieties receive UV light treatment, making them a good source of vitamin D. These mushrooms contain 130 to 450 IU of vitamin D2.


  • Fortified soymilk: For vegans and vegetarians, soymilk is a nutritious meal alternative because it contains the same nutrients as cow's milk. Each cup of soy milk contains 120 IU of vitamin D. However, before purchasing soy milk, read the label to determine whether it contains vitamin D. Little vitamin D is present in non-fortified brands.


  • Cheese: Cheese makes one of the best vitamin D-rich food for vegetarians. Cottage cheese has particularly higher amounts of vitamin D. Other cheeses with vitamin D include Cheddar, Fontina, and Monterey. Any type of cheese has about 24 IU of vitamin D per 100g serving.


  • Yoghurt: Because yoghurt is fortified with vitamin D, dairy and non-dairy yoghurts have high levels of this vitamin. It contains around 120 IU of vitamin D per cup.


  • Fortified almond milk: Each serving of fortified almond milk has 2.4 mcg (96 IU) of vitamin D. Numerous almond milk brands also add calcium to enhance its nutritional value.


Also read:

Top vitamin D-rich food items for non-vegetarians

There is equally a wide range of vitamin D-rich food options for non-vegetarians as well. While non-vegetarians can eat all that has been listed above as vitamin D food for vegetarians, many non-vegetarian food items are also good sources of Vitamin D. Some of the vitamin D foods for non-vegetarian people are:

  • Salmon: Salmon is an oily fish that has a lot of vitamin D. According to the Food Composition Database of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 100g of Atlantic salmon contains 526 IU of vitamin D per serving. When compared to farmed salmon, wild salmon has greater vitamin D. The amount of Vitamin D in a 100g plate of wild salmon is 988 IU compared to 25% in farmed salmon.


  • Tuna: Canned tuna has 268 IU of vitamin D which makes it a superior source of the vitamin. In addition, it is less expensive than purchasing fresh fish. Consuming canned tuna also increases the amount of niacin and vitamin K in the body. However, avoid overconsumption of this food item as it contains the toxic metal methylmercury. High levels of methylmercury in the body can cause serious health conditions.


  • Cod liver oil: If you are not too fond of eating fish, then include a cod liver oil supplement in your diet. Cod liver oil contains 448 IU of vitamin D per teaspoon. This can be easily given to kids who need more vitamin D. It is also a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin A. However, avoid consuming excessive amounts of cod liver oil because high levels of vitamin A in the body can be harmful.


  • Sardine: Sardine is an excellent vitamin D food. It contains 177 IU of vitamin D. Fatty fish like halibut and mackerel are also good sources of vitamin D.


  • Herrings: Whether it is served canned, smoked, pickled, or raw, herrings are a great source of Vitamin D. It has 216 IU of vitamin D per 100g serving. Additionally, pickled herring contains salt and 112 IU of vitamin D, both of which are essential to human health.


  • Fortified cow milk: Cow milk has phosphorus, calcium, and riboflavin. With 115–130 IU of vitamin D per cup, it is a fantastic source of vitamin D.


  • Egg yolk: You can get 37 IU of this vitamin from eggs. Note, the chicken’s exposure to the sun and the vitamin D concentration of chicken feed determine the vitamin D content of eggs. Eggs from chickens that have access to pasture and sunlight are three to four times more vitamin D-rich. They have 6000 IU of vitamin D.


What is vitamin D deficiency?

A shortage of vitamin D in the body or its inadequate absorption is called vitamin D deficiency. Or, if there is an increased need for vitamin D in the body due to a particular condition or metabolism, then not having enough vitamin D can be called a deficiency. This usually happens if a person does not consume adequate vitamin D-rich foods or has very less exposure to the sun.

Vitamin D deficiency can lead to many ailments and health disorders. Some of them are:

Osteomalacia: Osteomalacia causes the bones to become weak and brittle. However, this condition can be improved by consuming proper and adequate vitamin D.

Rickets: This is another bone-related disease, which causes abnormal bone formation, especially in infants and children. This happens when bone tissues do not solidify to become proper bone structures. It is caused by low levels of vitamin D.

Cold: A deficiency of vitamin D in adults comes with a higher probability of increased infections like respiratory tract inflammation, cold, cough, and flu.

Cancer: Clinical studies have shown that vitamin D checks the growth of cancer cells.

Type 2 diabetes: Vitamin D deficiency may be significantly impacted by the factors such as reduced pancreatic beta cell function, insulin resistance, and inflammation that cause Type 2 diabetes (T2DM).


Along with making sure that you get the sufficient nutrients from your diet, invest in a good health insurance policy to make sure you are covered financially incase of unforeseen circumstances.



Frequently Asked Questions About Vitamin D Rich Food

Which fruits and vegetables contain Vitamin D?

Among fruits, orange contains Vitamin D. Apart from that you can eat mushrooms, tofu, cheese, cereals, and yoghurt. All these food items are good sources of vitamin D.

What does Vitamin D do?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient which helps the body to absorb calcium, magnesium, and phosphate, which are essential for bone development.

What are the different forms of vitamin D?

There are primarily two types of vitamin D—vitamin D2 and vitamin D3 which are also called ergocalciferol and cholecalciferol, respectively.

What is vitamin D toxicity?

Too much consumption and/or absorption of vitamin D, much more than required by the body, can cause calcium accumulation in the body. This overabsorption of vitamin D can damage kidneys and bones. Excess vitamin D in the body is called vitamin D toxicity.

How can vegans get sufficient vitamin D?

Vegans can get vitamin D from plant-based milk yoghurt, tofu, mushrooms, almond milk, rice milk etc. Many vegetarian and non-animal dairy food items are good sources of vitamin D.

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