Like calcium, vitamin D is crucial to bone health and to the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. This fat soluble vitamin promotes calcium absorption and is needed for bone growth and remodelling. It's also involved in cell growth, immune function and reducing inflammation. Recent research has shown that vitamin D might also have a protective role in multiple sclerosis, heart disease, diabetes, stroke and some types of cancer, particularly colorectal and breast cancers.
Your body produces vitamin D when your skin is exposed to UVB rays from the sun. As Canadians, living in the northern latitude, it is hard to get enough in the fall and winter months. One way that can help children and adults get enough is to consume 2 cups of vitamin D fortified milk a day. Other sources of vitamin D include fatty fish, eggs, margarine, liver and vitamin D fortified yogurt and plant-based beverages. You should also talk to your doctor or dietitian about taking a vitamin D supplement, especially if you have limited sun exposure, cannot get enough vitamin D from food, have low levels of vitamin D, have darker coloured skin, or have osteoporosis or osteopenia. Health Canada recommends that exclusively breast-fed infants and adults over age 50 take a vitamin D supplement of 600 IU. However, most adults actually need over 1000 IU of vitamin D though supplement a day.
In the summer months, a little sun goes a long way. Tanning is not the answer! A few minutes a day in the sun during peak hours (10 a.m. - 3 p.m.) without sunscreen will help you get enough. Despite the benefits of the sun for vitamin D synthesis, you should practice sun safety.
Curious how much vitamin D you should be getting? Click here to use our Get Enough tool.