HOW TO GET ENOUGH VITAMIN D
People with skin cancer are usually advised to limit their sun exposure. Staying out of the sun and applying sunscreen reduces the amount of vitamin D the body produces when the sun’s rays interact with the skin. Living in a northern climate also limits our sun exposure in the winter months. A lack of sunshine, advancing age and few food options that naturally contain vitamin D all contribute to possible vitamin D deficiency. We need vitamin D to absorb calcium, to build and maintain bones and teeth, and to support our immune system, but most of us won’t get enough of this important vitamin without using a supplement.
Healthy children and adults between 1-70 years of age, including pregnant or breastfeeding women, require 600 IU (international units) daily. Those over 70 or those younger adults at high risk (with osteoporosis, multiple fractures, or conditions affecting vitamin D absorption) should receive 800 IU daily. The safe, tolerable upper limit for people older than 9 years for vitamin D is 4000 IU per day. Long term intakes above the upper limit can increase the risk of adverse health effects.
Health Canada recommends that people over the age of 50 years take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU. While most multivitamins or calcium supplements contain some vitamin D, the amounts can vary, so it’s important to read the label carefully to ensure you are getting the amounts you need. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is a good choice when you are looking for a supplement which provides Vitamin D only.
Few foods naturally contain vitamin D. Fortified foods provide most of the vitamin D in the Canadian diet. Cow’s milk and margarine are required to be fortified with vitamin D in Canada.
The best food sources of vitamin D are
- fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel)
Other foods with smaller amounts of vitamin D include
- egg yolks
- beef liver
Foods fortified with vitamin D include; (check the label)
- Cow’s milk (note: foods made with milk are often not fortified)
- Soy and rice beverages
- Orange juice
- Breakfast cereals
For more information:
HEALTHLINK BC: Food sources of calcium and vitamin D
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Government of Canada: Vitamin D and Calcium: Updated Dietary Reference Intakes