Vitamin D

Learn about vitamin D and how to get enough.

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About vitamin D

Vitamin D is a nutrient that is important to your health. Vitamin D plays many roles. It:

  • helps your body absorb calcium
  • builds and maintains strong bones and teeth

Getting enough vitamin D

You can get vitamin D from:

  • sun
  • food
  • supplements

Most Canadians are getting enough vitamin D.

Sunlight and vitamin D

Vitamin D is a unique vitamin. This is because your body can make it when it is exposed to sunlight.

Many factors can reduce how much vitamin D your body makes, including:

  • smog
  • season
  • time of day
  • cloud cover
  • sunscreen use
  • limited outdoor time
  • amount of skin exposed to sunlight
  • age:
    • you make less vitamin D as you get older
  • amount of melanin (natural pigmentation that makes the skin darker):
    • it takes longer for people with more melanin to make vitamin D from the sun's ultraviolet rays

These factors make it hard to estimate the amount of vitamin D you make from sun exposure.

Food sources of vitamin D

Vitamin D occurs naturally in very few foods. Most dietary vitamin D is from fortified foods, where vitamin D has been added. When vitamin D is added it must appear on the nutrition facts table.

You can get vitamin D from foods recommended by Canada's food guide. Examples include:

  • eggs
  • soft margarine
  • fatty fish, such as:
    • salmon
    • rainbow trout
  • unsweetened lower fat milk
  • unsweetened fortified plant-based beverages, such as soy beverage

Vitamin D supplements

If you are over 50 years old, Health Canada recommends that you take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU (equivalent to 10 µg).

Speak to your health care provider about taking a vitamin D supplement if you think you are not getting enough of it.

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