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Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that plays an important role in our health. It strengthens our bones, muscles, and teeth and boosts our immune system. Some of the functions of vitamin D are not fully understood and are still being studied. 

Where does vitamin D come from?

Most vitamin D is made by our bodies in response to sunlight, only a small amount comes from the food we eat. To get enough vitamin D from sunlight, you need to spend around 10 to 30 minutes a day in the sun, several times a week, more if you have darker skin. Note, that this is natural sunlight, not artificial sunbeds, outside of peak-hours (11am to 4pm). If you have a family history of, or other risk factors for, skin cancer, please speak to your GP before increasing your sun exposure. 

Vitamin D deficiency (when you don’t have enough vitamin D in your body) is very common due to a number of factors, including change in lifestyles, increased use of sunblocks and migration. The majority if our Vitamin D is made by our bodies when we are exposed to natural sunlight. Getting enough vitamin D from sunlight alone may be difficult if: 

  • You live in a country where there is little sunlight for all or part of the year.
  • You spend most of your time indoors.
  • You wear clothes that cover most of your skin.
  • You are, quite correctly, using moisturisers with sunblocks.

The recommended daily amount of vitamin D in the UK is 10 micrograms (mcg) a day for adults and children over four year of age. 

Which foods contain vitamin D?

Foods containing vitamin D include: 

  • Oily fish
  • Red meat
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified spreads and cereals

What are the best foods to eat for vitamin D?

Foods containing the highest amounts of vitamin D (12 to 20 mcg per portion) include:

Food Portion size Amount of vitamin D (mcg) 
Grilled herring 119g 19.2 
Tinned salmon 100g  13.6 
Grilled salmon 170g 13.3
Grilled kipper 130g  13.1
Grilled rainbow trout 155g 12.7
Smoked mackerel  150g  12.3

Foods containing around 3 to 4 mcg of vitamin D per portion include:

Food Portion size Amount of vitamin D (mcg) 
Some malted drinks 1 mug (25g) 4.6
Cooked crab  1 tin (75g)  3.5
Sardines  1 tin (100g)  3.3
Scrambled eggs/ omelette  2 eggs 3.3

Foods containing around 1 to 2 mcg of vitamin D per portion include:

Food Portion size Amount of vitamin D (mcg) 
Build up shake 1 sachet (38g)  1.7
Fortified soya milk 1 glass (200ml) 1.6
Boiled egg 1 1.6
Fortified cereal (cornflakes/bran flakes) 1 serving (30g)  1.4

Foods containing around 0.5 mcg of vitamin D per portion include:

Food Portion size Amount of vitamin D (mcg) 
Pork chop 1 (75g)  0.6
Corned beef  1 slice (50g)  0.6
Bacon rashers 2 (80g)  0.5
Fortified low-fat spread 1 teaspoon (5g)  0.4
margarine 1 teaspoon (5g) 0.4
Pork sausages 1 (40g)  0.4
Lambs liver 40g 0.4

In some countries milk is fortified, meaning extra nutrients like vitamin D have been added to it, but this is not the case in the UK.  

Vegetarian foods high in vitamin D

Many foods high in vitamin D are animal products and getting enough vitamin D from your diet if you are vegan or vegetarian can be a challenge. Some sources of vitamin D suitable for vegans and vegetarians include: 

  • Fortified Orange Juice contains around 2.5 mcg per 200ml glass
  • Mushrooms when grown in sunlight or artificial light contain around 11.25 mcg per 100g
  • Fortified Cereals vary between brands, but normally contain 0.2 to 2.5mcg per serving
  • Fortified almond, rice, or soy milk contains around 2.4 mcg per 200ml glass

Fortified tofu contains around 2.5mcg per 100g.

Vitamin D supplementation

In June 2020 the NHS issued a recommendation that everyone in the UK should consider taking a vitamin D supplement of 10mcg per day. This advice is particulary pertinent in winter months.

Vitamin D deficiency is very common and affects around 27% of people in the UK with a further 74% having below optimal levels (this is known as “insufficiency”). Vitamin D deficiency is particularly common in the winter months, and among people with naturally darker skin tones. 

Vitamin D deficiency is more likely if you:

  • Live in a country with limited sunshine.
  • Spend a lot of time indoors.
  • Wear modest clothing that covers your skin.
  • Follow a restricted diet such as vegan or vegetarian.
  • Have a health condition that affects your ability to absorb food like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, chronic pancreatitis, or cystic fibrosis
  • Have darker skin.
  • Have liver or kidney problems.
  • Are over 50.
  • Are overweight or obese.

If you are worried about vitamin D deficiency, taking a supplement is a good way to make sure you are getting enough. Supplements are available as daily tablets, capsules, syrup, or drops, or as an injection that is normally given every 3 to 6 months. 

What if I take too much vitamin D?

Taking too much vitamin D is dangerous as it can cause high levels of calcium in the body (hypercalcaemia). Never take more vitamin D than the recommended amount. 

Symptoms of hypercalcaemia include: 

  • Nausea (feeling sick)
  • Vomiting (being sick) 
  • Weakness
  • Excessive urination (peeing more than usual)
  • Bone pain 
  • Kidney stones

If you have or think you have taken too much vitamin D, seek immediate medical attention. 

Does vitamin D interact with other medications?

Vitamin D supplements can interact with some medications meaning your supplement may be less effective. These include: 

  • Steroids like prednisolone 
  • Cholesterol medication (statins
  • Weight loss drugs like orlistat
  • Thiazide diuretics (medicines that make you pee) 
  • Epilepsy medications like phenobarbital and phenytoin
  • Some heart medications like digoxin

Tell a GP or pharmacist about any medications you are taking before starting vitamin D supplements.


Vitamin D is vital for our bodies to work properly and to prevent health conditions like osteoporosis in later life. To find out more about the symptoms and possible health problems of vitamin D deficiency read our article, Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency. 

You can help to increase your levels of vitamin D naturally by eating more vitamin D-rich foods and spending more time outside, but in many cases, vitamin D supplements may be necessary. 

If you are worried you may have vitamin D deficiency you can check your vitamin D levels at home with a simple at-home vitamin D test. The test is quick and easy, requires a single drop of blood and the results take around 10 minutes. It costs just £19.99 including free delivery. 

We recommend buying a combined test and follow-up online GP consultation by video link to discuss your results and any necessary treatment.