EatRight Ontario Print Header

Get answers to your nutrition and healthy eating questions. Visit www.eatrightontario.ca or call us toll-free at 1-877-510-510-2.

Get answers to your nutrition & healthy eating questions.

Call us toll-free† at
1-877-510-510-2 to speak directly with a Registered Dietitian.

What you need to know about Vitamin D

Vitamin D has received quite a bit of attention over the last few years. Recently, the recommended amounts for Vitamin D increased for people of all ages. Read on for information and tips on how to benefit from the sunshine vitamin.  

 

What does Vitamin D do?

Vitamin D is a nutrient that helps your body absorb calcium. Calcium and vitamin D work together to help you maintain healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D also helps your muscles, nerves and immune system work properly. Recent research has shown that vitamin D may be linked to lowering the risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis and some cancers.


How much Vitamin D do I need?

The amount of vitamin D you need depends on your age. 
 

Age group

Aim for an intake of international units (IU)/day

Stay below IU/day*

Infants 0-6 months old

400

1000

Infants 7-12 months old

400

1500

Children 1-3 years old

600

2500

Children 4-8 years old

600

3000

Children and Adults 9-70 years old

600

4000

Adults over 71 years old

800

4000

Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women

600

4000

*This includes vitamin D from both food and supplements

 

 

What foods have Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is not found in many foods; however, you can find vitamin D in:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Fortified soy and rice beverages
  • Fortified orange juice
  • Fatty fish like salmon and sardines
  • Margarine
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified yogurts (check the label)

 

How do I know if I’m getting enough vitamin D?

Infants

  • Infants who are fed only breastmilk should get a supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D everyday until they are 12 months old.
  • Infants who are fed breastmilk and formula should get a supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D everyday until they are 12 months old.
  • Infants who are fed only formula do not need a vitamin D supplement.  The formula already provides enough.
Read Introducing Solids to Your Baby to find out more about vitamin D and infants.

EatRight Ontario can answer questions on feeding your baby. Call 1-877-510-5102 or send an email.

Children and adults

Canada’s Food Guide recommends that everyone over 2 years of age drink 500 mL (2 cups) of milk or fortified soy beverage every day to get enough vitamin D. Speak to your healthcare provider if you do not drink milk or fortified soy beverage. They can help you determine if you need a vitamin D supplement in addition to eating other vitamin D-rich foods.

Adults 50 and over

Health Canada recommends that men and women over 50 take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU.

Do I need a vitamin D supplement?

Children and adults who do not get enough vitamin D from foods or have low blood levels of vitamin D may need a supplement. Adults with osteopenia or osteoporosis may also need a vitamin D supplement. To find out your vitamin D levels, visit your doctor.  A Registered Dietitian or your doctor can help you decide if you should take a supplement and how much to take.

Vitamin D supplements are sold over-the-counter as pills, chewable tablets or drops.


What if I’m vegetarian?

A well planned vegan or vegetarian diet can include all the vitamin D you need. However, vegan or vegetarian children and adults who do not get enough vitamin D from foods or have low blood levels of vitamin D may need a vitamin D supplement. Speak to your doctor, healthcare provider or Registered Dietitian about your vitamin D needs. If you have questions about planning a vegetarian eating plan, call 1-877-510-5102 or send an email.

 

Can I get vitamin D from sunlight?

Yes. During the spring and summer, your body can make vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun without sunscreen on. The amount of vitamin D that your body can make from sunlight also depends on your age, where you live and your skin tone. During the fall and winter in Ontario, it is hard to get enough vitamin D.  Do not depend on only sunshine to meet your vitamin D needs.

Is more vitamin D better?

No. Your total vitamin D intake should be below the maximum amount allowed per day to avoid any possible negative effects. See the chart above to make sure you are getting the amount you need.

 

Tips for getting more vitamin D

Milk and Alternatives

  • Use milk or fortified soy beverage instead of water when making pancakes, muffins, soups, puddings, smoothies and sauces.
  • Make a yogurt parfait for breakfast with yogurt, fruit and nuts (read the label to see if the yogurt has vitamin D).
  • Add skim milk powder or evaporated milk to casseroles, baked goods, cream soups and sauces. Try Chicken and Corn Chowder.
  • Have a café latte or chai tea latte instead of a regular coffee.
  • Make hot chocolate with milk instead of water. Try this spicy version.
  • Add evaporated milk to coffee instead of cream.
  • Enjoy lower fat milk-based desserts such as rice pudding and custard.

Fatty Fish, Eggs and Margarine

 

Take home messages

Vitamin D is important for strong bones and may be linked to lowering the risk of some cancers.

Canada’s Food Guide recommends that everyone over 2 years of age drink 500 mL (2 cups) of milk or fortified soy beverage every day to get enough vitamin D.

If you do not drink milk or fortified soy beverage, speak to your health professional to find out if you need a vitamin D supplement.

If you are a man or woman over 50 years old, it is recommended that you take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU in addition to eating foods that contain vitamin D.

 

If you have more questions about how much vitamin D you need or would like a handout on vitamin D food choices, call an EatRight Ontario Registered Dietitian at 1-877-510-510-2 or send an email.

 

You may also be interested in:

Strong Bones for Life

Vitamins and Minerals FAQ

Vitamin D: What you Need to Know, Dietitians of Canada 

Copyright © Dietitians of Canada 2014. All rights reserved.

Dietitians of Canada acknowledges the financial support of EatRight Ontario by the Ontario government. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Province.