Osteoporosis Canada


Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for proper growth and formation of teeth and bones. We need vitamin D for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from the foods that we eat. Vitamin D has some other roles in the body, and it is important for our muscles and our immune system. Low levels of vitamin D, known as vitamin D deficiency, has been linked to a wide variety of health issues such as osteoporosis, heart disease, depression, cancer, and multiple sclerosis.

How much Vitamin D do I need?

Osteoporosis Canada recommends healthy adults between 19-50 years of age, including pregnant or breast feeding women, require 400 – 1,000 IU daily. Those over 50 or those younger adults at high risk (with osteoporosis, multiple fractures, or conditions affecting vitamin D absorption) should receive 800 – 2,000 IU daily.

What are the sources of Vitamin D?

Food and Supplements

There are very few foods in the nature that contain significant amounts of vitamin D. These include the flesh of oily fish such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and mackerel and fish liver oils. We can also get small amounts of vitamin D from foods such as beef liver and egg yolks. Some yogurts contain vitamin D if they are made with vitamin D fortified milk. In Canada, vitamin D fortification is mandated for margarine, infant formula, formulated liquid diets, cow’s milk and its substitutes, egg products, foods for use on a very low energy diet, meal replacements and nutritional supplements. Fortification is voluntary for butter substitutes, condensed milk, goat’s milk and goat’s milk powder.

It is nearly impossible to get enough vitamin D from your diet. You would need to eat a lot of these foods to reach the recommended level. Osteoporosis Canada recommends that all Canadian adults take a vitamin D supplement (specifically, vitamin D3 or cholecalciferol) year-round. This is the most common type of vitamin D found in supplements in Canada.

Examples of foods rich in vitamin D

Food Serving Size IU’s per Serving
Cod Liver Oil 5 mL/1 tsp 426
Egg Yolk, cooked 2 Large 64
Margarine, fortified 5 mL/1 tsp 25-36
Milk (all types) 1 c/250 mL 103-105
Mushrooms, white 125 mL/ 1/2 c 4
Orange Juice, Fortified 1/2 c/125 mL 50
Salmon (Sockeye), Baked or Broiled 75 g 394
Salmon, pink, Canned, Drained with solids and bones 75 g 435
Snapper, Baked or Broiled 75 g 392
Soy Beverage, Enriched 1 c/250 mL 86

Sun exposure

Vitamin D and Sun ExposureVitamin D, the “sunshine vitamin,” is produced when the sun’s rays interact with our skin. It helps build stronger bones by increasing the absorption of calcium. It also improves the function of muscles, which can improve your balance and decrease the likelihood of falling and suffering a fracture.

Canadians, particularly women,  have reduced their sun exposure and use sunscreen (which blocks UV rays) to prevent damage from the sun.  As well, Because of our latitude, we cannot produce vitamin D between October and March.

Furthermore, the skin’s ability to make vitamin D decreases as we age.

All this supports the need to get vitamin D through food and/or supplementation.


Hassan Vatanparast is a member of Osteoporosis Canada’s Scientific Advisory Council.  He is a Professor with Joint Appointment to the College of Pharmacy and Nutrition and School of Public Health, University of Saskatchewan. He is actively involved in research and health promotion initiatives targeting bone health. Hassan is leading several projects at the local, national, and global levels aimed to improve the nutritional health of the general population, newcomers and indigenous communities.


National Institutes of Health. (2018). Vitamin D, Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminD-HealthProfessional/#en26 (assessed May 28, 2019)

Institute of Medicine. (2011). Dietary reference intakes for calcium and vitamin D: Washington, DC: The National Academy Press.

Janz, T., & Pearson, C. (2013). Vitamin D blood levels of Canadians: Statistics Canada Ottawa (Canada).

Libon, F., Courtois, J., Le Goff, C., Lukas, P., Fabregat-Cabello, N., Seidel, L., . . . Nikkels, A. F. (2017). Sunscreens block cutaneous vitamin D production with only a minimal effect on circulating 25-hydroxyvitamin D. Arch Osteoporos, 12(1), 66. doi:10.1007/s11657-017-0361-0

Wacker, M., & Holick, M. F. (2013). Sunlight and Vitamin D: A global perspective for health. Dermato-endocrinology, 5(1), 51-108.

Whiting, S. J., Langlois, K. A., Vatanparast, H., & Greene-Finestone, L. S. (2011). The vitamin D status of Canadians relative to the 2011 Dietary Reference Intakes: an examination in children and adults with and without supplement use. Am J Clin Nutr, 94(1), 128-135.

Canadian Food Inspection Agency. (2018). Foods to Which Vitamins, Mineral Nutrients and Amino Acids May or Must be Added. Retrieved from http://www.inspection.gc.ca/food/requirements/labelling/industry/nutrient-content/reference-information/eng/1389908857542/1389908896254?chap=1 (assessed May 31, 2019)

Pinault, L., & Fioletov V. Sun exposure, sun protection and sunburn among Canadian adults. Health Reports. Statistics Canada. Health ReportsCatalogue no. 82-003-X. ISSN 1209-1367.

Did you know?

A Registered Dietitian or your doctor can help you regarding supplementing vitamin D in your daily diet.

Live Your Best Life With Protein

Today, most people consume too much protein at dinner and not enough at breakfast. In recent years, scientific studies have shown that a balanced consumption of protein throughout the day promotes healthier aging. Here are some explanations and tips to help you adjust your diet.

Living without protein is impossible!

Protein is needed for almost all our body’s important activities, such as digesting, walking, concentration, and fighting infections. Protein is the basic component of all human body cells and is responsible for the daily renewal of our hair, nails, and skin. Moreover, protein may promote healthier aging. Studies have shown that a protein-rich diet and a more balanced protein intake throughout the day (between 25 g and 35 g of protein per meal) better preserves lean body mass (all muscles, bones, and organs) and promotes better appetite and weight management. Balancing our protein intake may be challenging, as we consume on average 10 g of protein in the morning, 15 g at noon, and 65 g at dinner.

Featured Recipe: Braised Beef and Feta Gremolata
Examples of foods and their protein content
Food (serving size) Protein content
Whole-wheat bread (2 slices) 10 g
Natural peanut butter (30 mL) 7.5 g
Milk (250 mL) 8.5 g
Cheddar cheese (50 g) 12 g
Chicken breast, grilled (100 g) 31 g
Canned tuna (100 g) 25.5 g
Tempeh (100 g) 18 g
Tofu (100 g) 10 g
Lentils (100 g or approx. 125 mL) 9 g

Did you know?

Protein is important to ensure proper muscle maintenance and bone strength, which help to protect older people from serious injury during falls.

The challenge: Boost your breakfast

Unfortunately, your beloved toast, jam, and black coffee doesn’t provide much protein. No problem! Generously spread your toast with ricotta before adding your jam, and bingo! Your breakfast has more muscle. With 15 g of protein per 125 ml, ricotta is a great addition to your waffles, pancakes, or toast. The same goes for cottage cheese. Combine it with your favourite fruit, some granola, and a drizzle of maple syrup for a new, hearty breakfast. To boost the protein content of your muffins, banana bread, and smoothies, add skim milk powder (6 g protein/30 ml), Greek yogurt (10 g protein/100 g), and nuts or seeds. Keep in mind that pumpkin seeds (5 g protein/30 ml) and hemp seeds (6.5 g protein/30 ml) contain more protein than all other nuts. These ideas will “beef up” your breakfast and contribute to your long-term health at the same time.

To boost your protein tonight, try our featured recipe: Braised Beef Feta Gremolata

Written By

Julie DesGroseilliers is a registered dietitian, speaker and author of four books, including PROTÉINES (Les Éditions La Presse), her latest bestseller. This food-loving registered dietitian is also a TV and magazine columnist and food industry consultant and recipe writer – www.juliedesgroseilliers.com.

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Lactose Intolerant? Here’s what you need to know

Many people wonder if they may be lactose intolerant, but unfortunately there’s a lot of misinformation out there, which leads to lots of confusion! Most importantly, having a lactose intolerance does not mean that you must give up your favourite dairy-based foods. In fact, I am lactose intolerant and still enjoy cheese on my pizza, Greek yogurt in smoothies and cream in my coffee! So, here are the facts, straight from this lactose intolerant dietitian:

What is lactose intolerance?

When you are lactose intolerant it means that your body has a hard time digesting a sugar called “lactose”, which naturally-occurs in milk products. In fact, what bothers most people with lactose intolerance is consuming too much lactose all at once, which can lead to gas, diarrhea or bloating. In fact, most lactose intolerant adults can tolerate up to 12-15 grams of lactose (equivalent to 250 ml of milk) daily with no discomfort! This means you can still enjoy your favorite dairy-based foods, just in smaller amounts.

What to do if you are lactose intolerant

If you have a lactose intolerance, try drinking lactose-free milk (you can find this in the refrigerated milk section of the grocery store). These contain an enzyme called “lactase”, which helps break down the lactose, making it easier for you to digest. Lactase can also be found in pill form, which can be taken prior to eating a meal that contains milk products, like pizza! Here are a few more tips:

  1. Drink milk or enjoy other lactose-containing foods or drinks in small quantities throughout the day.
  2. Always drink milk or eat other lactose-containing foods alongside other food, versus on an empty stomach.
  3. Eat cheese! Hard cheese like cheddar or parmesan is naturally lower in lactose, making it easier to digest.
  4. Consume yogurt and yogurt-based drinks like kefir. They contain live (and good) bacteria that help breakdown lactose.
  5. Limit foods that cause you discomfort. Everyone is different. While you may be able to consume macaroni and cheese, another individual with lactose intolerance might not. Everyone has a different threshold for lactose too—experiment with amounts and types of lactose-containing foods to see what you can tolerate.

Lactose intolerance versus dairy allergy – they’re different!

It is easy to confuse a lactose intolerance with a milk allergy, but the two are unrelated. Both result in unpleasant symptoms, but those with a milk allergy have an immune response to the protein in milk and will therefore have symptoms relating to an allergy such as rash, wheezing, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. People with a true milk allergy can’t have any products containing dairy. If you react to milk products, consult with your doctor to see if it is a lactose intolerance or a milk allergy.

Written By

Sarah Remmer, RD is a Registered Dietitian, mom of 3, author, media spokesperson and founder of The Centre for Family Nutrition based in Calgary, Alberta. Her practice, as well as her blog focuses on infant, child and family nutrition, with helpful articles on starting solids, picky eating, family meals, pre-natal nutrition and more.

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