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All About Vitamin D


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vitamin D

How much vitamin D do you need daily? What is vitamin D good for and what are the symptoms of vitamin D deficiency? Here is what you need to know.

The Importance of Vitamin D

Vitamin D plays an essential role in the health of your bones and teeth. It's called the "sunshine vitamin" as the body needs sun to produce it.

Vitamin D helps the body absorb and use calcium and plays an important role in cell growth and muscle function. It also helps protect against infections by keeping your immune system healthy.

Common Food Sources of Vitamin D

Mostly produced by our skin from exposure to the sun's ultraviolet rays, vitamin D can also be found in food. Some foods (such as certain fish) contain it naturally, while it is added to other foods (such as milk).

See the table below for the vitamin D content of some common foods:

Common Food Sources of Vitamin D
Food GroupFoodServing sizeVitamin D (IU)
Vegetables and Fruit
Orange juice, fortified with vitamin D125 mL (½ cup)50
Grain Products This food group contains very little of this nutrient
Milk and Alternatives
Milk (homogenized 3.3%, 2%, 1%, skim, chocolate)250 mL (1 cup)104
Milk, skim, powdered24 g (to make 250 mL of milk)103
Goat’s milk, fortified with vitamin D250 mL (1 cup)100
Soy beverage, fortified with vitamin D250 mL (1 cup)87
Yogurt (plan, fruit bottom), all types175 g (¾ cup)67
Meat and Alternatives
Eel, cooked75 g (2.5 oz)699
Salmon, sockeye/red, canned75 g (2.5 oz)557
Salmon, humpback/pink, canned75 g (2.5 oz)435
Snapper, cooked75 g (2.5 oz)392
Mackerel, Pacific, cooked75 g (2.5 oz)343
Herring, Atlantic, pickled75 g (2.5 oz)201
Trout, cooked75 g (2.5 oz)200
Halibut, cooked75 g (2.5 oz)144
Whitefish, lake, cooked75 g (2.5 oz)135
Tuna, yellowfin, cooked75 g (2.5 oz)106
Sardines, canned, with bones75 g (2.5 oz)70
Egg yolk2 large64
Tuna, white, canned with water75 g (2.5 oz)60
Margarine5 mL (1 tsp)66

Vitamin D Requirements

People of all ages need a sufficient intake of calcium and vitamin D to maintain healthy bones. Until our late twenties, calcium and vitamin D help build bone mass and, later on in life, serve to preserve bone mass or prevent it from deteriorating.

The amount of vitamin D needed in our diet varies with age:

  • Men and women 19-70 years old: 600 IU per day
  • Men and women 71 years and older: 800 IU per day

Vitamin D and Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a disease that is characterized by the progressive weakening of bones, leading to increased risk of fractures. The best way to prevent osteoporosis is to make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D throughout your life.

According to current recommendations, men and women over age 50 should take a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU daily.

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

Vitamin D deficiency is very common, especially in nordic countries such as Canada. That being said, most people don't know that they are deficient as the symptoms are subtle.

Symptoms may be:

  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Bone and back pain
  • Depression
  • Impaired wound healing
  • Softening or weakening of the bones
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle pain

Vitamin D Supplements

During the fall and winter months, the sun's rays are weaker and Canadians spend more time indoors. Some people may therefore benefit from a vitamin D supplement of 1000 IU per day during this time. Talk to your pharmacist or doctor to determine if you would benefit from taking a daily supplement.

The information in this resource is for general information purposes only and is not intended to replace informed medical advice. Consume foods according to any dietary guidelines you have been provided from a health care professional. Metro Ontario Pharmacies Limited assumes no legal liability for the accuracy, completeness or usefulness of the information.

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