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.
What foods have Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is not found in many foods; however, you can find vitamin D in:
Fortified soy and rice beverages
Fortified orange juice
Fatty fish like salmon and sardines
Fortified yogurts (check the label)
How do I know if I’m getting enough vitamin D?
Infants who are fed only breastmilk should get a supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D everyday until they are 2 years old.
Infants who are fed breastmilk and formula should get a supplement of 400 IU of vitamin D everyday until they are 2 years old.
Infants who are fed only formula do not need a vitamin D supplement. The formula already provides enough.
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.
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
Use smoked salmon on crackers or in a sandwich wrap.
Try Tea Poached Salmon with Fruit Salsa.
Add sardines to pizza or appetizers.
Make scrambled eggs with added milk and some margarine.
Make a delicious Stove-Top Broccoli and Mushroom Quiche.
Make garlic bread or toast with margarine.
Instead of tuna, try canned salmon in your wrap or sandwich.
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.