Photo credit: Jacqueline Newman, Flickr Creative Commons
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin needed for absorbing calcium and building strong bones. It may also benefit muscles, gums, and the immune system. Except for fish oils, very few foods contain much of this vitamin. Milk is fortified with vitamin D to prevent rickets in children. Nonfat, low-fat, and whole milk have equal amounts of the vitamin. Vitamin D can be made by the body from sunlight on unprotected skin for 15 minutes daily. In northern areas of the United States, the sun is only strong enough to do this from March through October. Some groups that may need supplementation of vitamin D:
- infants who are breastfed
- people with a milk allergy
- people who rarely drink milk (lactose intolerant, dislike milk)
- people with limited sun exposure
- people with dark skin
- people with inflammatory bowel diseases or malabsorption
- people who are obese (Body Mass Index above 30)
- older adults
Among supplements, vitamin D3 is more potent than vitamin D2. More than 50 percent of women are not getting the suggested amounts of vitamin D. Recent research is finding many health benefits related to adequate intake of this vitamin. It is important to obtain the recommended amounts. Use foods that are good sources, sunlight exposure, and, if needed, supplements to obtain these amounts.
Caution: Excessive amounts of vitamin D, as a fat-soluble vitamin, are stored in the body. Above a specific level, they could be toxic.Consider your total intake, including food sources and multivitamins.
The new vitamin D safe upper limit is 4,000 IUs. If prone to kidney stones, check with your doctor before exceeding 1,000 IUs. In terms of blood values, 50 nmol/L of serum 25(OH)D are generally considered adequate for bone and health in healthy people.
Tip: In the warmer months, taking a 20 minute walk in the sun gives you your daily dose of needed vitamin D.
Check the chart below to select foods that are good sources of vitamin D.
Good Sources of Vitamin D
Food, International Units (IU) Vitamin D per serving
- Salmon, 3 oz: 477 IU
- Tuna canned in water, 3 oz: 154 IU
- Orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D, 1 cup: 137 IU
- Milk fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup: 124 IU
- Yogurt fortified with vitamin D, 6 oz: 80 IU
Examine Your Choices
Food | Source | What I buy | What I plan to buy
Protein group Fatty fish--vitamin D Pork Salmon
Tips Affecting Different Age Groups
Per the Food and Nutrition Board's Institute of Medicine, the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for vitamin D (males and females) are as follows:
- Ages 1-70: 600 IU (15 micrograms)
- Above age 70: 800 IU (20 micrograms)
Serving size: Makes 8 servings
- 2 cups soft bread crumbs
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 onion, chopped
- dash of pepper
- 1 Tablespoon melted vitamin D fortified margarine
- 1 Tablespoon minced parsley or 1 tsp dried
- ¼ cup minced celery
- 2 eggs
- ½ to 1 cup low-fat milk
- ½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 can (15½ oz) salmon
Preheat oven to 325°F. Drain salmon and remove skin if desired. Mash bones with meat and mix with rest of ingredients. Add milk so that mixture is moist but not runny. Place in lightly oiled 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Bake for 45 minutes.
One serving: 158 calories, 14 g protein, 9 g carbohydrate, 1 g fiber, 8 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 149 mg calcium, 360 mg sodium, 14 IU vitamin D, 146 IU vitamin A.
Prepared by: Lynn James, Senior Extension Educator and reviewed and updated by Anna Schweichler, Extension Educator