Is Milk a Good Food Source of Vitamin D?

Americans need more vitamin D – and most aren’t getting it. Unfortunately, there are few naturally good food sources that are high in D. What about milk? Is it a good source?

Is milk a good source of vitamin D?  Americans could certainly use more of this vitamin. Studies show that up to 75 percent of people have inadequate blood levels of vitamin D – and the elderly are at especially high risk. The best natural source of vitamin D is sunlight, but, unfortunately, most people don’t get enough sun exposure – especially during the winter months.

Is Milk a Good Food Source of Vitamin D?

It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D exclusively from diet. Few foods are good natural sources of vitamin D – and even raw milk doesn’t have significant levels. Commercial milk you buy at the grocery store is fortified – meaning additional vitamin D is added to it – giving a cup of whole or skim milk around 100 I.U. of vitamin D. Most people need a minimum of 400 I.U. of vitamin D a day – and many experts believe this amount is still too low. To get the minimum requirement of vitamin D, a person would have to drink four cups of milk a day unless they’re getting some from other sources such as sunlight.

Other Natural Food Sources of Vitamin D

Although commercial milk is fortified with vitamin D, other dairy products such as ice cream and cheese usually aren’t – so you can’t depend on them to be a significant source. Other than fortified milk, the only other good food sources of vitamin D are fatty fish – including salmon, tuna, and sardines. A serving of wild salmon supplies a day’s requirement of vitamin D or more, but farm raised salmon only has about a quarter of that amount.

Because many people don’t like the taste of salmon and other fatty fish; milk and sunlight are the primary sources of vitamin D for most people. Before the United States began fortifying milk with vitamin D back in the 1930’s, rickets, a bone disease seen in vitamin D deficient children, was a significant public health problem. After the milk fortification program began, the number of cases plummeted. Fortified milk is an important food source of vitamin D since so many people drink it – and because there are so few other options.

The Bottom Line?

Commercial milk is a decent food source of vitamin D – although most people would need to drink four glasses a day to get enough vitamin D. Overall, wild salmon is the very best source – even better than milk. On the other hand, don’t depend on food alone to supply enough vitamin D. Step outside for ten minutes and get a little sunlight each day – but don’t overdo it, you could end up with skin cancer.


Office of Dietary Supplements. “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D”. 

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  1. i love milk. nice article

  2. Thank you for the advice on Vitamin D. I appreciate your helpful articles and expertise.

  3. Great share..

  4. I always like milk and drank lots of it as child and still drink today and yogurts too. I do believe it does keep the weight off and promote healthy teeth.
    Excellent write up of this important food
    Lee Ness

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