Vitamin D is one of the key vitamins that your body absolutely needs. It’s known to benefit your body in a variety of ways, such as by keeping your bones strong, preventing diseases like diabetes and heart disease, as well as helping to regulate blood pressure. But unlike many other nutrients, which you can easily get enough of from food and your diet, vitamin D is an exception: because the majority of people usually do not get enough vitamin D from food to truly reap the benefits of vitamin D. That’s one of the reasons why many doctors recommend either exposing yourself to a lot of sunlight or taking vitamin D supplements to reap the benefits of vitamin D.
Because of the many benefits of vitamin D (for more on that, click here), you want to make sure that you’re getting the daily recommend amount of vitamin D:
- At least 600 IU per day for adults up to 70 years of age
- 800 IU per day for adults above 70 years of age
- While there are many benefits of vitamin D, too much is not healthy either, so you want to stick to a maximum of 4,000 IU per day.
Although many people do not get enough vitamin D from food, that doesn’t mean you should over look food as one of the best vitamin D sources because it’s a great place to start. Consider the amount of vitamin D in these vitamin D sources:
- One serving of cod liver oil (one tablespoon) contains 1,350 IU of vitamin D
- Three ounces of salmon contain 800 IU of vitamin D
- Eight ounces of vitamin D-fortified orange juice contain 100 IU of vitamin D
Keep in mind that food is a good place to start when looking for vitamin D sources, but if you are like the majority of people who do not get enough of vitamin D from food, then you’re missing out on the benefits of vitamin D. You should also know that the daily values (DV) listed on food products is set at only 400 IU per day for vitamin D—200 IU lower than what is recommended, so even if you are getting 100% of your DV of vitamin D, you still actually need to get another 200 IU of vitamin D from other vitamin D sources.
There are two alternatives: you can expose yourself to more sunlight, or take vitamin D supplements. It’s hard to determine how much sunlight you need to get enough vitamin D, and to reap the benefits of vitamin D, since the way your body absorbs sunlight can be radically different than the way someone else does. As a general rule, to get the benefits of vitamin D, then you want to sit in the sun for about half the amount of time it would take your skin to turn pink and burn (so if you normally burn within 20 minutes, then sit outside for 10). Keep in mind that the risk of skin cancer is high so always apply sunscreen no matter what. In that amount of time, your body can produce 10,000 to 25,000 IU of vitamin D.
The other way you can ensure you reap the benefits of vitamin D is by taking vitamin D supplements (to a maximum of the amounts listed above).
There are many benefits of vitamin D and there are many vitamin D sources: for best results, get vitamin D from your food, the sun, and supplements, if necessary.
Zelman, K., “Are You Getting Enough Vitamin D?” WebMD web site; http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/guide/are-you-getting-enough-vitamin-d, last accessed August 5, 2013.
“How Do I Get the Vitamin D My Body Needs?” Vitamin D Council web site; http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/about-vitamin-d/how-do-i-get-the-vitamin-d-my-body-needs/, last accessed August 5, 2013.