Vitamin D in food: Where is the most vitamin D found?

Vitamin D in Lebensmitteln: Wo steckt am meisten Vitamin D drin?

Vitamin D is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin and there is a reason for this nickname: Because your body can easily produce this vitamin itself. All he needs is sunlight, more precisely so-called UV-B radiation. But please don't lie in the blazing sun for hours, because you'll end up with a bad sunburn.

There are a few things to consider when it comes to getting or producing enough vitamin D. Sometimes your body doesn't get enough sun, for example, but fortunately there are foods containing vitamin D as a substitute. In our big vitamin D food test we present everything important that you should know about the topic and also have precise recommendations for you. So we have compared the advantages and disadvantages for you to hopefully make your purchase decision easier.

the essentials in brief

Vitamin D can be produced by your body with the help of the sun. But often that's not enough, because in winter, for example, there are far fewer hours of sunshine and therefore fewer opportunities for your body to produce vitamin D. Even if you are a bit older and at the same time only leave the house irregularly, a vitamin D deficiency can develop.

In these cases, in addition to the natural rays of the sun, there is also the possibility of taking in vitamin D with the help of your diet. You have two different options: either foods containing vitamin D or so-called supplements in the form of pills.

In any case, we recommend a combination of the above methods. Because the concentration of vitamin D in food is very low. Therefore, a pure intake of vitamin D through these foods is unfortunately out of the question. But if you want to make up for minor deficiencies, then these foods are a good supplement for you.

Definition: What is vitamin D?

The name might suggest otherwise, but strictly speaking vitamin D is not a vitamin. Because vitamins are vital, organic compounds that the body has to absorb regularly through food because it cannot produce them itself. (1.3)

However, this is not the case with vitamin D, because with sufficient exposure to the sun your body can produce it itself and thus already cover 80 to 90 percent. So you are not so dependent on the intake through food, for which you still need 10 to 20 percent remain. (3.7)

The collective term vitamin D generally includes vitamin D3 and vitamin D2. Vitamin D3 is also called cholecalciferol or colecalciferol, and there is also vitamin D2, also known as ergocalciferol.

Background: What you should know about vitamin D foods

In order to provide you with comprehensive information about foods that contain vitamin D and to bring you closer to the essential facts, we have summarized all important information for you in the following sections.

Which foods contain vitamin D?

There are some foods that contain vitamin D in slightly larger amounts. However, that does not mean that these foods are suitable for replacing nature, more precisely the sun.

Fish top the list of foods containing vitamin D (Image source: Daniel Lee/Unsplash)

It is therefore important that you find out exactly how much vitamin D certain foods contain in order to find the most suitable ones for you. In the table below you will find some of the foods that contain vitamin D. As you can see, the respective quantities are quite small.

Food Amount of Vitamin DFish Oil/Cod Liver Oil250 micrograms/100 gramsRaw Maitake Mushrooms28.1 micrograms/100 gramsHalibut, raw27.4 micrograms/100 gramsMackerel, salted25.2 micrograms/100 gramsRaw Carp24.7 micrograms/100 gramsYolk, raw5.4 micrograms/100 gramsMargarine5, 0 micrograms / 100 grams

In general, fish in particular contain the most vitamin D, including mackerel or halibut, but carp and eel are also good suppliers of vitamin D. (3.5">Ahead of the fish are so-called maitake mushrooms, which are only surpassed by fish oil.

When and for whom is it useful to take additional vitamin D?

The intake of vitamin D through food makes sense for everyone. (2,4,8"> At the same time, the concentration of vitamin D in food is not particularly high, making it difficult to meet your vitamin D requirements through food alone.

Pregnant women in particular should make sure that they do not have any defects in order to ensure the health of their baby. (6.10)

The following people are at greater risk of vitamin D deficiency:

  • infants and children
  • Vegan living people
  • pregnant women
  • Elderly people
  • Generally people who are not exposed to the sun much

Even if you spend little time outside in the sun and your body can therefore hardly produce its own vitamin D, it is advisable to eat foods high in vitamin D. This is especially true for older people, especially in nursing homes. Not only are they less likely to be out in the sun, but vitamin D production also decreases significantly with age. (4,6,7)

What is the daily requirement of vitamin D?

The German Society for Nutrition (DGE) recommends an increase in vitamin D of around 20 micrograms per day. They assume an age of 1 year or more, infants only need half, i.e. 10 micrograms.

Vitamin D supplements are often prescribed to infants to prevent deficiency or rickets. It is irrelevant whether the children already produce their own vitamin D or not. From the age of two, these preparations should then be taken, especially in the winter months. (5,6,10)

In older children, adolescents and later adults, as mentioned above, it depends on how much vitamin D the body has produced itself. If a small deficit has arisen in the summer months due to too few hours of sunshine, then taking special preparations will not do any harm.

You should pay much more attention to your vitamin D balance if you eat vegan. If you have also received little sun, a slight deficiency can set in more quickly.

This is also due to the fact that vitamin D is found only rarely or in very small amounts in plant foods. Therefore, in this case, the intake of additional preparations is recommended. (9.11)

What functions does vitamin D have in the body?

Vitamin D has several functions in your body, but the most important one is to support the bones. With the help of vitamin D, the formation and maturation of your bone stem cells are promoted. (1.3)

You can easily fight a vitamin D by going out in the sun for about 30 minutes. (Image source: Maciej Serafinowicz/Unsplash)

In addition, vitamin D is also responsible for regulating the absorption of calcium in the intestine and is involved in the embedding of calcium and phosphate in the bones. (1,3,4)

Vitamin D is said to have other important functions, but these have not yet been proven. These include, among others:

strengthening the immune system (defense against pathogens, inhibition of excessive immune reactions (helpful in autoimmune diseases such as type 1 diabetes and multiple sclerosis))

  • strengthening of the muscles
  • Protective effect for the nerve cells in the brain
  • positive effect on the cardiovascular system
  • Reduction of vascular diseases
  • protective effect against cancer
  • positive effect on the human psyche

Even if only half of the assumptions from this list are confirmed, that would be quite a lot. So you can see at this point how important vitamin D is.

Above all, strengthening the bones is essential and should not be underestimated by you. The relationship between vitamin D deficiency and susceptibility to fractures is often studied, and an adequate supply of vitamin D in the body can have a positive influence on the strength of your bones (2,4).

How does vitamin D deficiency manifest itself?

There are several ways in which a vitamin D deficiency can manifest itself. However, these symptoms are not always clearly traceable, because there are also other deficiencies or diseases that they indicate. (3.6)

That's why it's always worth consulting your family doctor and we would also recommend it if you suspect you have a vitamin D deficiency.

The following symptoms are possible with vitamin D deficiency:

  • hair loss
  • increased susceptibility to infection
  • Muscle weakness, muscle pain, body aches
  • Disturbed, limited bone mineralization
  • neuromuscular hyperexcitability

The symptoms mentioned above represent only part of the possible effects. Depending on age and general health, a vitamin D deficiency can also manifest itself differently. (3.6)

How do I recognize a vitamin D overdose?

Just as a vitamin D deficiency can be harmful in the long run, an overdose of vitamin D is not good for you or your body either.

This overdose can manifest itself in the following ways, among other things:

  • nausea and/or vomiting
  • associated loss of appetite
  • extreme thirst (polydipsia)
  • and then increased urination (polyuria)
  • general feeling of weakness
  • Headache
  • nervousness
  • Kidney stones and kidney damage up to kidney failure

Therefore, you should not take vitamin D supplements or give them to your child at your own discretion. Because if your body is supplied with enough vitamin D anyway, an overdose from supplements happens very quickly.

If you suspect a vitamin D deficiency in you or your loved ones, it is better to see a doctor. He can then examine your blood and determine exactly whether and if so how severe your vitamin D deficiency is.

What do vitamin D products cost?

There are only a limited amount of foods that contain significant amounts of vitamin D. But you can buy supplements if you don't get enough sun rays.

Since it's difficult to give a price estimate for foods containing vitamin D, given that it's a broad category, we'll rather give you a price quote for vitamin D supplements. These can also be better compared with each other and thus classified.

The price range is between around 6 and 30 euros per product

TypePrice rangeVitamin D supplement without other ingredientsaround 6 to 15 eurosVitamin D supplement with other ingredientsaround 18 to 30 euros

What alternatives are there to vitamin D foods?

As already mentioned, the best and therefore also the most important alternative to foods containing vitamin D is the sun, because your body can cover about 80 to 90 percent of your needs with it.

The vitamin D content in supplements is much higher than in food. Thus, taking it is often easier and more effective to compensate for your deficiency. (Image source: Freestocks/ Unsplash)

You can easily compensate for the remaining 10 to 20 percent, either with foods containing vitamin D or with so-called supplements.

Especially with vitamin D supplements you have a large selection of products, with food this is a bit more limited, especially if animal products are not suitable for you.

Supplements are available in many different forms, for example as pills, drops or effervescent tablets. As always, with supplements you should pay attention to what the package insert says and that they are dietary supplements. This means that you do not replace a balanced diet by taking these supplements.

What should I look out for in vitamin D foods?

First of all, you should note that you cannot cover your vitamin D needs with natural foods alone. As we mentioned above, foods do not contain nearly enough vitamin D to efficiently and quickly meet your needs.

Because in order to meet your daily needs, you would have to consume very large amounts of just one product. First, that would be impractical, and second, it wouldn't be viable in the long run, besides not being particularly tasty either.

Foods that contain vitamin D are not enough to meet your daily needs!

Second, you should note that vitamin D supplements are often the easier solution to vitamin D deficiency. The foods that contain vitamin D are great because they usually provide other good vitamins and minerals as well.


There are certainly foods that contain vitamin D, but these amounts are so small that they are not suitable for replacing the sun. These foods offer a good opportunity to compensate for minor deficits, especially if you do not want to take supplements .

Foods containing vitamin D are particularly suitable for support. In no case do they replace the sun that your body needs for its own production

In these cases it is good to know that there are foods with a certain vitamin D concentration. Maybe you just prefer it if you can provide your baby or child with additional vitamin D with the help of natural foods. At the same time, you shouldn't overdo it with supplemental vitamin D either, because as mentioned above, overdosing on vitamin D can also have serious and painful consequences.


  1. Vitamin D and prevention of selected chronic diseases - 2011 - Falls, fractures, cancer, type 2 diabetes mellitus, hypertension, cardiovascular diseases
  2. Association Between Vitamin D Status and Physical Performance: The InCHIANTI Study - 2007
  3. Vitamin D: The “sunshine” vitamin - 2012
  4. Vitamin D and Calcium for the Prevention of Fracture A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis - 2019
  5. The Demise of Vitamin D for Cardiovascular Prevention - 2019
  6. Vitamin D supply in infants, children and adolescents - 2011
  7. Selected questions and answers on vitamin D - 2012
  8. Current studies on vitamin D3 - neurodermatitis/atopic dermatitis - 2011
  9. Common genetic determinants of vitamin D insufficiency: a genome-wide association study - 2010
  10. Maternal vitamin D status during pregnancy and childhood bone mass at age 9 years: a longitudinal study - 2006
  11. Prospective Study of Predictors of Vitamin D Status and Cancer Incidence and Mortality in Men - 2006
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