Sources of vitamin D for humans

Int J Vitam Nutr Res. 2022 Mar;92(2):118-125. doi: 10.1024/0300-9831/a000733. Epub 2021 Oct 18.


Both vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency are now well-documented worldwide in relation to human health, and this has raised interest in vitamin D research. The aim of this article is therefore to review the literature on sources of vitamin D. It can be endogenously synthesised under ultraviolet B radiation in the skin, or ingested through dietary supplements and dietary sources, which include food of animal and plant origin, as well as fortified foods. Vitamin D is mainly found in two forms, D3 (cholecalciferol) and D2 (ergocalciferol). In addition to the D3 and D2 forms of vitamin D, 25-hydroxy vitamin D also contributes significantly to dietary vitamin D intake. It is found in many animal-derived products. Fortified food can contain D3 or D2 forms or vitamin D metabolite 25-hydroxy vitamin D. Not many foods are a rich source (> 4 μg/100 g) of vitamin D (D represents D3 and/or D2), e.g., many but not all fish (5-25 μg/100 g), mushrooms (21.1-58.7 μg/100 g), Reindeer lichen (87 μg/100 g) and fish liver oils (250 μg/100 g). Other dietary sources are cheese, beef liver and eggs (1.3-2.9 μg/100 g), dark chocolate (4 μg/100 g), as well as fortified foods (milk, yoghurt, fat spreads, orange juice, breakfast grains, plant-based beverages). Since an adequate intake of vitamin D (15 μg/day set by the European Food Safety Authority) is hard to achieve through diet alone, dietary supplements of vitamin D are usually recommended. This review summarizes current knowledge about different sources of vitamin D for humans.

Keywords: Vitamin D; dietary sources; dietary supplements; fortified food.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcifediol
  • Cattle
  • Cholecalciferol
  • Dietary Supplements
  • Food, Fortified
  • Humans
  • Vitamin D*
  • Vitamins*


  • Vitamins
  • Vitamin D
  • Cholecalciferol
  • Calcifediol