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This will be the first in a series of “The Importance of…” where we will examine the latest “buzz nutrients” and find out how we can obtain them through real foods, superfoods and excellent supplements.

Frankly, I am really tired of reading about specific nutrients. Everywhere we look people are talking about this vitamin, that mineral, this probiotic, that omega. Y’all they put “probiotics” in the strangest places now.

Instead of asking “Did you take your cod liver oil today?” we now ask “Have you gotten your 10,000 IUs of vitamin D today?”

It is messed up.

But here I am about to tell you about vitamin D. Why? Probably because this is now the language we speak. All I ever learned in college was to dig deeper, ask why, break everything down to its smallest elements. So now I have to retrain my mind to take cod liver oil because healthy people have taken it for years, not because some scientist tells me it has so many IUs of vitamin D. Who talks in terms of IUs anyway?!

Why Vitamin D Matters

The reason vitamin D is on my mind is because a year ago I had some blood work run after the birth of our baby and I was vitamin D deficient. Then when my husband had some blood work run last week we found that he, too, was vitamin D deficient. There is definitely something missing in our diets.

Now I could link to this article or that article and tell you all about why you need vitamin D, but I know y’all are as tired of that as I am (click here if you’re not that tired of it yet). I could tell you how it’s critical to the immune system, your metabolism, your heart health, your bone strength, blah, blah, blah.

Food Sources of Vitamin D

Instead lets just talk about the best sources of vitamin D and we’ll see the difference between our generation of vitamin D deficiency and healthy generations of the past.

The amounts given are per 100 grams, 3 1/2 oz, or 7 Tablespoons

  • Cod Liver Oil – 10,000
  • Lard (Pork Fat) – 2,800
  • Atlantic Herring (Pickled) – 680
  • Eastern Oysters (Steamed) – 642
  • Catfish (Steamed/Poached) – 500
  • Skinless Sardines (Water Packed) – 480
  • Mackerel (Canned/Drained) – 450
  • Smoked Chinook Salmon – 320
  • Sturgeon Roe -232
  • Shrimp (Canned/Drained) – 172
  • Egg Yolk (Fresh) – 148 (One yolk contains about 24 IU)
  • Butter – 56
  • Lamb Liver (Braised) – 20
  • Beef Tallow – 19
  • Pork Liver (Braised)-12
  • Beef Liver (Fried) – 12
  • Beef Tripe (Raw) – 12
  • Beef Kidney (Simmered) – 12
  • Chicken Livers (Simmered) – 12
  • Small Clams (Steamed/Cooked Moist) – 8
  • Blue Crab (Steamed) – 4
  • Crayfish/Crawdads (Steamed) – 4
  • Northern Lobster (Steamed) – 4


To put these numbers in perspective the Weston A. Price foundation recommends 4000 IUs per day from all sources.

A few things to consider looking at the above data:

  • There are zero plant foods on that list.
  • Most people can not obtain enough vitamin D from sunlight alone, even in warmer climates.
  • The precursor to vitamin D through sunlight is cholesterol – which can be obtained from many of the things on the list above.
  • Our grandparents and great grandparents ate a lot more of these foods along with taking cod liver oil.

The Takeaway

It is easy to see why my husband and I may be deficient: both cod liver oil and lard have been absent from our diets. I made the mistake of believing others who said fish oil and cod liver oil were the same thing. They are not in fact, and I am looking forward to purchasing fermented cod liver oil this week now that we are nearly through our fish oil supply.

I wrote before about why fermented cod liver oil is optimal. The best price and lowest shipping that I’ve seen online can be found on my resources page. You can also find many of the animal products from that list here.

What about you… what are your thoughts on vitamin D, cod liver oil and health?