Vitamin D is probably THE most important vitamin talked about in the nutrition world today. If you haven’t heard about the importance of vitamin D, I’m here to get you up-to-date. And if you’re not already supplementing with vitamin D, I’m here to tell you that you need to get on it. YES – everyone should be taking a supplement! Even me – the dietitian!
First of all, what exactly is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble essential nutrient that we require for health. Being “fat-soluble” means that fat is required for its absorption. That’s right! We need fat in our diets and this is one of the reasons why it’s necessary (and good)! Vitamin D is also classified as an essential nutrient because although a small amount of it can be made in the body with the help of the sun, we don’t make enough to satisfy our needs. And let’s face it, although I love the sun, I’m wearing sunscreen (which you should be too!) when I’m out and about. By blocking harmful UVA and UVB rays I’m also blocking an important step in the conversion of 7-dehydrocholesterol (a cholesterol precursor) in the skin into vitamin D. Without the help of UVB to make the conversion, I’m missing some of my vitamin D-3. But heck – it’s a trade-off. I can still get enough vitamin D from food and my supplement, while skipping the sun damage and wrinkles!
Vitamin D-3? There are different kinds?
You may have noticed that I said Vitamin D-3. That’s because vitamin D can be classified as D3 or D2! Vitamin D(3) is more commonly found in animal food sources, like fatty fish, while D2 is found in plant sources like mushrooms! Although both of these are nutritious foods that I recommend, you would have to be consuming A LOT of vitamin D rich foods, or vitamin D- fortified foods, in order to meet the adequate intake (AI) or recommended daily allowance (RDA) set by Health Canada. Even the most diligent of us (ahem… me) needs a daily supplement.
You may be asking, what exactly does vitamin D do for my health? The short answer – a lot. But to name a few, vitamin D helps your body utilize calcium and phosphorous in order to maintain strong bones and teeth, it has been linked to improved immune function, it may help reduce your risk of heart disease, and prevent other diseases such as diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and cancers (especially colorectal cancer). Woah. Crazy right?
The benefits listed above are only apparent if you have adequate levels of vitamin D in your system. And frankly – the majority of people are deficient. Personally, I recommend everyone supplement, from babies to seniors! If you’re a mom, you may remember giving your baby 400 International Units (IUs) of vitamin D in droplet form (if they were breastfed). A lot of parents I chat with think that once their baby starts solids that they no longer need to supplement. Not true! The recommendation for vitamin D actually increases to 600 IU’s after the age of one! Your child would have to be consuming a lot of milk (for reference 1 cup of milk contains 80-100 IU’s of vitamin D) to be meeting their requirement. And I always recommend no more than 2 cups of milk total throughout the day. This makes it really difficult to meet your needs through food alone. So, my recommendation is that EVERYONE take a supplement. For us adults, I recommend between 1000 and 2000 international units (IU’s) per day in supplement form. Personally, I take 2000 IU in addition to the amount I receive from food. If you’re not a fan of taking pills (who is really?) I recommend Solves Strips® Vitamin D3 Dissolvable Strips (each strip has 1000 IU’s of Vitamin D3). They’re convenient, high quality, well-absorbed and taste great. They’re also SUPER convenient and fit right inside your purse (which is key if you’re busy like me).
If you’re curious about your dose or if you’re deficient check with your doctor or book an appointment with a registered dietitian! To help you determine how much vitamin D you need to consume check out the chart below.
Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Vitamin D
|Age||RDA (IU)||Upper Limit (IU)*|
|Children 1-3 years||600||2500|
|Children 4-8 years||600||3000|
|Children and Adults 9-70 years||600||4000|
|Adults over 71||800||4000|
|Pregnant and Breastfeeding Women||600||4000|
* This includes from both food and supplements
About Sarah Remmer, RD
Sarah Remmer is a registered dietitian, author, writer/blogger, mom of 3, and founder of the Centre for Family Nutrition. She's passionate about teaching parents how to feed their families well (and stay nourished themselves!).