Vitamin D,also known as the "sunshine vitamin," is obtained from food or just going outside on a nice day. Still, 42 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient because they spend so much time indoors, wear sunblock when they do go outside and eat a diet that is low in vitamin D.

Vitamin D plays important roles in the body's health -- it keeps bones from becoming brittle and thin, it regulates the immune system, lowers blood pressure and acts as an anti-inflammatory. It can also help protect you from depression, type 1 and type 2 diabetes and several kinds of cancer.

The recommendation for daily intake is between 400-8600 international units, or IUs, but if you don't get enough sunlight, you should be closer to 1,000 IU each day. So, when you're looking for a snack, you should be looking for vitamin D sources. But which foods are the best options?

Salmon

Salmon is a popular fatty fish that is an excellent source of vitamin D. Just one 3.5 ounce serving has between 250 and 1000 UI, depending on whether or not it is farmed or wild. Studies have found that farmed salmon contains only about 25 percent of the amount of vitamin D typically found in wild salmon.

Canned Tuna

Canned tuna is popular for its light flavor, but it's also healthy and a good source of vitamin D. One 3.5 ounce can contains 236 IU, which is more than half of the minimum daily recommendation.

However, you don't want to eat more than six ounces a week, because tuna contains mercury, according to the Food and Drug Administration. If this toxin builds up in the body, it can cause serious health problems.

canned tuna

Shrimp, Oysters and Herring

Shrimp is low-fat and contains 152 IU per serving. The shellfish does contain a significant amount of cholesterol, but recent studies have shown that dietary cholesterol intake doesn't have a substantial effect on blood cholesterol levels.

Oysters are a delicious saltwater clam that is low in calories and full of nutrients. One serving of wild oysters has 320 IU of vitamin D. Herring is a popular fish that you can serve raw, canned, smoked or pickled, and it is also an excellent vitamin D source. Fresh Atlantic herring contains 1,628 IUin a 3.5-ounce serving, while pickled herring provides 680 IU.

Dairy

Whole, nonfat and reduced fat milk can provide 100 IUs in an eight-ounce glass, while cheese offers 40 IUs per slice. You can also get your vitamin D from yogurt, which contains 60 to 100 IUs per 6 oz.

Because most vitamin D sources are from animal products, most vegetarians and vegans are at risk for having low levels. People with restricted diets need to look to plant-based milk, such as soy milk, that is fortified with the vitamin as well as other nutrients. The IU levels of these products can be anywhere between 99 and 119.

Egg Yolks

Egg yolks are an excellent source of the sunshine vitamin. If you don't like fish, this is a great alternative, but the amount of Vitamin D will depend on the chicken it came from.

Pasture-raised chickens that roam outside in the sun will produce eggs with vitamin D levels higher than conventionally grown chickens, which contain about 41 IU of vitamin D in the yolk.

egg cracked with yolk spilling

Mushrooms

One of the few plant sources of vitamin D, wild mushrooms can contain a wide range of IUs, depending on the type of mushroom. However, most commercially grown mushrooms contain very little since they are often produced in the dark.

Still, there are specific mushrooms that are treated with UV light, and they can contain up to around 450 IU per 3.5 ounces.

Vitamin D Meal Inspiration

Maple-Glazed Salmon

With just one minute of prep time, this filet is quick and easy. Additionally, if you use sockeye salmon, one serving will contain 900 IU of the bone-protecting vitamin.

Rich Mushroom Soup

You can make this versatile soup with two-percent milk instead of one-percent and half & half, and you can use any combination of fresh mushrooms -- as long as they have UV light exposure. Pay close attention to which kind of mushrooms you use to maximize your vitamin D intake.

Ricotta and Yogurt Parfait

This healthy breakfast recipe may remind you of lemon cheesecake, and it is easy to throw together in the morning. It only contains six ingredients and you can put it together in less than five minutes.

Mozzarella, Basil And Zucchini Frittata

This dish that you can serve for breakfast, lunch, or dinner is incredibly easy to make. You can serve it with a salad and an olive oil-drizzled baguette, and it features tomatoes, mozzarella balls and zucchini. It only takes twenty minutes to prepare and is a healthy alternative to quiche.

Red Grape and Tuna Salad Pita

This recipe is a convenient source of vitamin D because it features tuna and gives you a boost in your metabolism. It is better to use canned light tuna instead of albacore in this recipe, and you will get plenty of vitamins.

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