- What is vitamin D?
- How much vitamin D do you need?
- Tips for getting more vitamin D
- Reading nutrition labels
- What if you get too little or too much vitamin D?
You need vitamin D at every stage of life, year 'round. Learn more about vitamin D and see if you’re getting what you need.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a key nutrient. It helps your body absorb calcium. Calcium and vitamin D work together to help you maintain healthy bones and teeth.
Vitamin D also helps your:
- nerves; and
- immune system.
Recent research shows vitamin D may be linked to lowering the risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis and some cancers.
Find out more about vitamin D.
How much vitamin D do you need?
Your skin uses the UV light in sunshine to make vitamin D. However, in Canada, sunlight is not a reliable source of vitamin D for many months during the year.
The amount of vitamin D you need depends on your age.
Age group Recommended daily intake Maximum intake each day including supplements at food sources Up to 6 months of age 400 IU 1,000 IU 7 to 12 months of age 400 IU 1,500 IU 1 to 3 years of age 600 IU 2,500 IU 4 to 8 years of age 600 IU 3,000 IU 9 to 70 years of age 600 IU 4,000 IU Over 71 years of age 800 IU 4,000 IU Pregnant and breastfeeding women 600 IU 4,000 IU
Adults over the age of 50
Health Canada recommends everyone over the age of 50 take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU.
Health Canada recommends that all breastfed, healthy term babies receive a daily vitamin-D supplement of 400 IU. This should begin at birth and continue until 1 year of age. This recommendation is to help reduce the risk of rickets, a disease that affects bone growth in children. Infants who are formula-fed receive adequate vitamin D from formula.
A single vitamin D3 supplement (without other vitamins) in a liquid (drop) format is recommended for infants. Other vitamin-D products such as vitamin D2 or a multivitamin (which contains vitamin D) are not recommended for infants.
Can you get vitamin D from tanning beds?
The sun produces 2 types of rays: UVA and UVB. Most tanning salons use UVA bulbs in their beds. However, vitamin D production comes from the UVB rays.
Light therapy is especially popular with treating seasonal affective disorder. If the light you're using emits UVB rays, then you'll be able to produce vitamin D.
Tips for getting more vitamin D
Some foods and beverages have added vitamin D. Cow’s milk, fortified orange juice, fortified soy beverages and most fish (salmon, trout, tuna, cod) are the best sources. However, it is difficult to meet vitamin D needs through food alone.
Choose foods with vitamin D
- Use milk or a fortified soy beverage instead of water when making pancakes, muffins, soups, puddings, smoothies and sauces.
- Make hot chocolate with milk instead of water.
- Add low-fat milk to coffee instead of a whitener.
- Eat smoked salmon on crackers or in a wrap.
- Make scrambled eggs with added milk.
- Try canned salmon in a wrap or sandwich.
- Eat fish, such as salmon or lake trout, for dinner.
- If you choose to drink juice, choose orange juice fortified with vitamin D.
- Choose yogourts fortified with vitamin D.
- Consider a vitamin-D supplement.
Getting enough vitamin D through food alone can be difficult. You can take a vitamin-D supplement or a multivitamin with vitamin D in it to ensure you get what you need.
Choosing a supplement
Choose a supplement that contains vitamin D3. This form is more efficient in raising vitamin D levels, not D2.
Most multivitamins contain some vitamin D, but the amounts vary. Be sure to read the small print on the label carefully. Some calcium supplements also contain vitamin D3. If you're unclear how much vitamin D your supplements contain, please check with a pharmacist.
Reading nutrition labels
The vitamin-D content of a food is found on the nutrition facts table. Amounts are written as the percentage of daily value (%DV). You can use this to find out the vitamin-D content (IU) per serving of food.
Knowing how to read food labels will help you find foods with vitamin D.
When vitamin D is listed on a food label, it's as easy as 1, 2 3 to find the vitamin D content (IU per serving):
- Find the percentage of daily value.
- Multiply by number by 4 to get the IU per serving.
For example, if milk has a 25% DV of vitamin D per serving, multiply 25 by 4. The sum is 100 IU per 1-cup serving.
What if you get too little or too much vitamin D?
Too little vitamin D can cause calcium and phosphorus levels in your blood to decrease. This can lead to calcium being pulled out of your bones to help maintain stable blood levels. In children, this can cause rickets. In adults, this can lead to:
- osteomalacia, a softening of the bones, or
- osteoporosis, fragile bones.
What happens if you get too much vitamin D?
Too much vitamin D can cause too much calcium to be deposited in your body. This can lead to calcification of your kidney and other soft tissues.
Because vitamin D is stored in fat cells, excess doses can build up to harmful levels, causing:
- high blood calcium;
- damage to your heart;
- damage to your blood vessels; and
- damage to your kidneys.
Total vitamin D intake should remain below the tolerable upper intake level (UL) to avoid adverse effects. Long-term intake above the UL increases the risk of adverse health effects.
Age group Tolerable upper intake level (UL) per day Up to 6 months of age 1,000 IU 7 to 12 months of age 1,500 IU 1 to 3 years of age 2,500 IU 4 to 8 years of age 3,000 IU 9 to 70 years years of age 4,000 IU Over 70 years of age 4,000 IU Pregnancy and lactation 4,000 IU
If you have questions, email email@example.com. You can also drop in to our office.
In person: 2nd floor of 305 Jarvis Street in Whitehorse.
Phone: 867-667-3003, toll-free in Yukon 1-800-661-0408, extension 3003.
Government of Yukon
Health Promotion (HP–305)
Whitehorse, Yukon Y1A 2C6