5 Foods Rich In Vitamin D To Protect Your Memory And Boost Brain Function

Fortune Well April 25, 2023


5 Foods Rich In Vitamin D To Protect Your Memory And Boost Brain Function

Vitamin D’s benefits are wide-ranging—strengthening our bones and reducing inflammation. 

Recent studies even suggest the sunshine vitamin may keep the brain strong, too. Lower vitamin D levels were associated with an increased risk of developing dementia, and one study found higher vitamin D levels in the brain were associated with stronger cognitive function. 

Sarah Booth, an author of one of the studies and the director of the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, said the vitamin can “create resilience to protect the aging brain against diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias,” according to the study’s press release last year. 

While sunlight exposure is one of the best sources of vitamin D, you can also get the nutrient by eating various foods or taking a dietary supplement. The recommended dietary allowance of vitamin D is 600 IU for people ages 1 to 70 and 800 IU for those 71 and older. 

Here are five foods rich in vitamin D to add to your grocery list: 


Experts generally recommend eating oily fish like salmon because it’s rich in vitamin D. Three ounces of salmon typically has between 350 and 550 IUs. Farmed salmon contains just 25% of the vitamin D levels of the wild-caught variety. How you cook it also matters: Salmon loses some vitamin D after frying, so microwaving or baking it are better bets. 

Bonus: The cold-water fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which can help improve mood and strengthen the brain.

Fortified milk 

Fortified milk is rich in a variety of vitamins, including vitamin D. Luckily, most milk options in the U.S., including nondairy alternatives, are already fortified.  

Fortified milk in the U.S. typically contains 120 IUs in one cup. Fortified soy, almond, and oat drinks contain between 100 and 144 IUs per cup.

Milk has long been a staple in children’s meals, but there are other ways to get bone-boosting vitamin D too.  


Mushrooms are uniquely rich in vitamin D compared to other produce, especially if exposed to sunlight or treated with ultraviolet light before hitting the stores, according to Harvard Health. 

Portabello mushrooms (100 grams) exposed to light have about 446 IUs of vitamin D compared to 10 IUs when not exposed to light, according to the USDA. 

Where to start? White button, portabello, and cremini mushrooms have the most vitamin D after exposure to sunlight, according to UCLA Health.  

Egg yolks 

The typical American breakfast of eggs and toast may be serving you well. 

One egg yolk has about 35 IUs of vitamin D. Egg yolks are rich in vitamin A, folate, and vitamin D. While the yolk is higher in cholesterol, which is associated with increased risk for heart problems, most people can eat eggs in moderation, per Harvard Health. 

Another key benefit: Low in saturated fats, a large egg contains about three grams of protein and can promote sustained energy. 


Yogurt is an excellent source of protein with antioxidative properties to help strengthen your gut and immune system. It’s also a good source of vitamin D, especially when fortified with the vitamin. 

Eight ounces of plain yogurt has 116 IUs of vitamin D, but be sure to check the yogurt’s label if you want to increase your vitamin D intake. 

While food can provide vitamin D, talk to your doctor before significantly upping your intake or taking a supplement. Too much vitamin D can cause calcium buildup and may damage the kidneys.

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