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Milk is an excellent source of vitamin D, as are fatty fish like salmon or tuna. To get the recommended amount of vitamin D, drink milk or eat fatty fish every day. If you are unable to meet your vitamin D needs through food, consider taking a vitamin D supplement.

Ideas for action:
  1. Children and adults up to age 70 need 600 IU of vitamin D each day (1). To help meet these needs, drink 2 cups (500 mL) of milk each day, or eat 75 grams of salmon, tuna or sardines every day.
  2. Use a vitamin D supplement when you can’t get enough from your diet. Health Canada recommends that everyone over the age of 50 take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU (2).
  3. Try cooking with milk. Use milk as a base for soups, sauces and puddings. Cooking does not change the vitamin D content of milk.

To find Vitamin D sources in food, check out Food Sources of Vitamin D

Did you know...

According to the recommendations released in November 2010: 1

  • Infants over one year old, children, teenagers and adults up to the age of 70 need 15 µg or 600 IU of vitamin D per day. These recommendations are the same for pregnant and lactating women.
  • Adults age 71 or older need 20 µg or 800 IU of Vitamin D per day.

The new upper level intake for vitamin D is 2500 IU per day for children 1-3 years old, 3000 for children 4-8 years old and 4000 for children 9-13 years old, teens and adults. 1

Vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium from foods. As a result, vitamin D plays an important role in promoting bone growth and maintenance.1 Many researchers believe that vitamin D, at adequate levels, can prevent some types of cancer such as colorectal and breast cancer 3,4

At our latitude in Canada, we cannot make vitamin D from the sun for about half of the year (October to March). As a result, a daily dietary source of vitamin D and/or supplement are important. There are only a few commonly consumed foods naturally rich in vitamin D. These include cod liver oil, salmon, mackerel, and tuna. You can also get smaller amounts of vitamin D from egg yolks, liver and margarine. According to food law5, milk in Canada is fortified with vitamin D so that 1 cup (250 mL) provides 2.5 µg or 100 IU. Yogurt, cheese, buttermilk and other milk products do not usually contain vitamin D, unless they’re made with fluid milk fortified with vitamin D.

Given the increased requirements for vitamin D and the fact that very few food sources have vitamin D, we may need to rely on vitamin D supplements to make sure we meet the new recommendations. Health Canada recommends everyone over the age of 50 take a daily vitamin D supplement of 400 IU. 2 Exclusively breastfed infants also need a daily supplement of vitamin D. Formula-fed infants usually consume the recommended amount of vitamin D since infant formulas are fortified with vitamin D. 6

If you would like to determine how much vitamin D you are getting from the foods you eat and whether you need to take vitamin D supplements, talk to your doctor or to a Registered Dietitian.

40 IU of vitamin D is equivalent to 1 microgram (µg) of vitamin D. 1

References

1. National Academy of Sciences. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D, 2010.

2. Health Canada. Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide, 2007. (www.healthcanada.ca/foodguide)

3. The urgent need to recommend an intake of vitamin D that is effective. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol.85, No. 3, 649-650, March 2007.

4. Vitamin D and Sunlight: Strategies for Cancer Prevention and Other Health Benefits. Clinical Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, Vol. 3, No. 5, 1548-1554, September 2008.

5. Health Canada. Food and Drugs Act and Regulations, 1981.

6. Health Canada. Vitamin D Supplementation for Breastfed Infants, 2004. (http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/fn-an/alt_formats/hpfb-dgpsa/pdf/nutrition/vita_d_supp_e.pdf )

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