Q&A w/Stephanie Solaris: Vitamin D

Q: How much Vitamin D do I need and how can I get the recommended amount?

A:  Vitamin D is essential to your health.  It helps the body absorb calcium so it can keep bones healthy and strong.  Young children need Vitamin D to prevent rickets, and older adults need it along with calcium to prevent osteoporosis.  As of recent, Vitamin D has also shown to prevent cancer, hypertension (high-blood pressure), and autoimmune diseases.

Recommended Amounts of Vitamin D.

Normal levels of Vitamin D range between 50 I.U.’s (International Units) and 100 I.U.’s per dL.  You can check your Vitamin D levels by getting blood work done.

Sources of Vitamin D.


Vitamin D. is difficult to come by in nature – very few foods contain the amount a healthy adult would need in a day.  However, small amounts of Vitamin D can be found in fish, beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks.  See chart below for sources and dosage.

Table 3: Selected Food Sources of Vitamin D [30]

Food IUs per serving* Percent DV**
Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon 1,360 340
Salmon (sockeye), cooked, 3 ounces 794 199
Mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light to increase vitamin D, 3 ounces (not yet commonly available) 400 100
Mackerel, cooked, 3 ounces 388 97
Tuna fish, canned in water, drained, 3 ounces 154 39
Milk, nonfat, reduced fat, and whole, vitamin D-fortified, 1 cup 115-124 29-31
Orange juice fortified with vitamin D, 1 cup (check product labels, as amount of added vitamin D varies) 100 25
Yogurt, fortified with 20% of the DV for vitamin D, 6 ounces (more heavily fortified yogurts provide more of the DV) 80 20
Margarine, fortified, 1 tablespoon 60 15
Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 2 sardines 46 12
Liver, beef, cooked, 3.5 ounces 46 12
Ready-to-eat cereal, fortified with 10% of the DV for vitamin D, 0.75-1 cup (more heavily fortified cereals might provide more of the DV) 40 10
Egg, 1 whole (vitamin D is found in yolk) 25 6
Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce 6 2
*IUs = International Units.

**DV = Daily Value. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of products within the context of a total diet. The DV for vitamin D is 400 IU for adults and children age 4 and older. Food labels, however, are not required to list vitamin D content unless a food has been fortified with this nutrient. Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Database Web site, http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search, lists the nutrient content of many foods and provides a list of foods containing vitamin D: http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/12354500/Data/SR22/nutrlist/sr22a324.pdf. A growing number of foods are being analyzed for vitamin D content. Simpler and faster methods to measure vitamin D in foods are needed, as are food standard reference materials with certified values for vitamin D to ensure accurate measurements [31].

Sun Exposure

Another way to meet the required Vitamin D level is through sun exposure.

For light-skinned individuals – 10-15 minutes of sunlight exposure to the arms, legs, or face/day (without sunscreen)

For dark-skinned individuals – 30 minutes or more of sunlight exposure to the arms, legs, or face/day (without sunscreen)


The last source of Vitamin D is through dietary supplementation.   Ask your health care professional for recommended supplements and dosage.

SWH Recommendations

The best ways to obtain enough Vitamin D is through sun exposure and supplementation.  To get enough sun exposure, we recommend taking a walk during lunch time to get your levels in for the day.  As for supplementation, because everyone is different and we believe in individualized nutrition, we recommend that everyone check their Vitamin D levels before beginning a supplementation plan.

Source: http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind.asp


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