Are you getting enough Vitamin D

Everything you need to know about the sunshine vitamin!
Published June 21, 2020

What is vitamin D and what does it do?


Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that plays a major part in supporting muscle and bone health. Vitamin D is classified as an essential nutrient, which means the body is unable to produce vitamin D on its own. Sources of vitamin D include food and beverages, supplements, and sunlight. Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, making it a particularly important nutrient for building and maintaining bone health as well as preventing osteoporosis. In addition to osteoporosis, insufficient vitamin D levels can result in chronic stiff or sore muscles, fatigue, low mood, a weakened immune system and back pain. 


What are the best sources of vitamin D?




While there are a very limited number of foods that are naturally high in vitamin D, beef liver, cheese, egg yolks, and fatty fish such as salmon, trout, sardines, and tuna are all good sources of this nutrient. Although mushrooms are often cited as a good source of vitamin D, they must first be exposed to ultraviolet light or grown outdoors where they can absorb vitamin D from the sun. You can give your mushrooms a dose of vitamin D at home by slicing them and laying them out in direct sunlight for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Food items which are typically fortified with vitamin D include dairy and non-dairy milk, orange juice as well as some breakfast cereals.




Vitamin D supplements are commonly sold with the addition of calcium, both of which are necessary for optimal bone density and health. When choosing a supplement, keep in mind the gummy versions may be high in sugar and therefore have a SmartPoints value associated. Make sure to discuss any plans to add nutrient supplementation to your regimen with your family physician or primary healthcare provider.




The “sunshine vitamin” nickname stems from the body’s ability to convert cholesterol into vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet light. Canada’s climate and seasonal changes mean that the vast majority of people are unable to meet their vitamin D requirements via sunlight alone. Current recommendations suggest anywhere from 10-30 minutes in direct sunlight, depending on skin colour and sun tolerance. Individuals with fair skin should stick to 10 minutes while those with darker shades of skin may need the full 30 minutes in the sunshine. 

It’s important to note that UV rays, which are crucial for the creation of vitamin D, are blocked by sunscreen and clear glass. Scientists are quick to point out that sunscreen application is almost always imperfect and vitamin D can still be produced when outside on a hot summer day — the key word being outside. 


How much vitamin D do I need?


Vitamin D has both a Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) and a Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL). Unless otherwise noted by a health professional, you should aim for the RDA and not the UL — the UL refers to the maximum amount of vitamin D that can be safely taken on a daily basis.

For children and adults between the ages of 9 and 70 as well as those who are pregnant or  breastfeeding the RDA of vitamin D is 600 IU and the UL is 4000 UL.

For adults older than 70 years the RDA is 800 IU and the UL is 4000 IU.


Making sure you get enough vitamin D


Health Canada officially recommends that individuals who are 50 years of age or older take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU. Getting enough vitamin D through diet alone can be tricky unless you regularly eat fortified foods and include plenty of fatty fish in your diet. Due to Canada’s seasonal changes it’s virtually impossible to get enough vitamin D from sunlight, especially during the fall and winter months. In order to ensure adequate production of this important nutrient throughout the year (not to mention, better bone and muscle health) talk to your physician about taking a daily vitamin D supplement.