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Vitamin D

Don’t count on the sun. Although sunshine is the main source of vitamin D, you can’t expect sun to be your primary source in all seasons of the year. Many factors may sabotage your ability to make vitamin D from exposure of the skin to the ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation of the sun.

Sunscreen blocks the production of vitamin D. If your skin is darker, the pigment acts as a natural sunscreen; it takes longer sun exposure to make vitamin D. Aging with thinning of the skin is another factor.

Eat vitamin D-rich foods. Unfortunately, few foods contain vitamin D. The highest natural sources are fatty fish like wild salmon, halibut, and sardines.

Vitamin D Foods

Approximate Content USDA

Food Serving Size Amount IU International Units
Salmon sockeye 3 ounces 447
Tuna canned in oil 3 ounces 229
Halibut 3 ounces 196
Sardines with bone 3 ounces 164
Tuna yellowfin 3 ounces  96
Egg large 1 41
Mushrooms shitake 1 cup cooked 41

Some cereals, breads, and orange juices are types of foods that may be fortified with vitamin D. All milk is fortified but not all milk products are fortified with vitamin D.

It is not easy to get to your recommend amount of vitamin D from your diet alone.

Check “Nutrition Facts.” Vitamin D on food labels is given as % Daily Value or DV. The daily value for vitamin D is 400 IU (International Units). Multiply the percent by 4 for the amount in IUs. For example, a one cup serving of milk is 25%, which would be 100 IUs.

Ensure adequate vitamin D status with supplements. The amount of vitamin D needed is hotly debated. Refer to the chart for the latest general recommendations.

Vitamin D Recommended Daily Intakes

2010 Institute of Medicine

Agein years Amount in IU Upper Levelin IU
0-.5 400 1000
.5-1 400 1500
1-3 600 2500
4-8 600 3000
9-70 600 4000
71+ 800 4000

However, your individual needs may vary. In general, taking 1000 to 2000 IUs a day provides adequate vitamin D status. Talk with your doctor about checking a vitamin D level to be sure.