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Discover the role of vitamin D in the body and how to get enough in your diet.

Key points

  • Vitamin D is a nutrient that is naturally found in only a few foods. For this reason, many foods are fortified with vitamin D.
  • Our bodies also make vitamin D from sunlight exposure.
  • Vitamin D is a nutrient that works along with calcium and phosphorus to help build and maintain healthy bones and teeth.
  • People whose skin is not regularly exposed to the sun need to eat vitamin D-rich foods and/or take a supplement.
  • Breastfed babies need a vitamin D supplement.

What is vitamin D and what does it do?

Vitamin D is a nutrient that works along with calcium and phosphorus to maintain healthy bones and teeth. It is also important for muscle and nerve function and a healthy immune system. Our bodies make vitamin D using energy from the sun, but the lack of sunshine in winter and use of sunscreen in summer means that we also need to get vitamin D from food and supplements.

Sources of vitamin D and how to get enough

Vitamin D is mostly found in egg yolks, fatty fish and some mushrooms. Fortified foods that are also sources of vitamin D include cow's and goat's milk, margarine, plant-based milk alternatives, yogurts and cereals.

Milk products and alternatives containing vitamin D

How much do we need?

Vitamin D recommendations*

AgeAmount per day (International Units (IU)/day)
Infants (Birth – 1 year)400 IU
Children (1 – 8 years)600 IU
Children and adults (9 – 70 years)
During pregnancy or lactation
600 IU
600 IU
Adults (70+ years)800 IU

*These recommendations are presented here simply as a guide to help you make informed food choices and are based on the expectation of minimal sun exposure.

How much vitamin D can I find a serving of food?

Examples of food sourcesAmount of vitamin D (IU)
1 cup milk120 IU
1 egg yolk45 IU
2 oz cooked salmon400 IU
1 cup fortified plant-based milk120 IU

Special considerations

Vitamin D is very important for infant brain development and whole-body growth. Breastmilk does not contain enough vitamin D to meet an infant's requirements. Therefore, a vitamin D supplement is necessary for breastfed infants. If you are breastfeeding, ask your health-care provider how much vitamin D is right for your baby.

Ask your child's doctor about a supplement if your child has any digestive concerns or other conditions that cause them to absorb lower amounts of vitamin D from food.

Supplements (general recommendations)

  • Infants who were born at full term that are breastfeeding or formula fed less than 1000 mL (4 cups) of infant formula need a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU each day.
  • Infants who live in northern Canada need 800 IU of vitamin D per day from October to April.
  • People whose skin is not regularly exposed to the sun—for example, if they work indoors, wear long clothing or head coverings, or live in northern Canada—need to choose vitamin D-rich foods or take a supplement of 200–400 IU each day.

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Last updated: January 6th 2023