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Vitamin 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.

In Canada, we don’t get as much sun as we need to produce adequate vitamin D. Further, the skin’s ability to make vitamin D decreases as we age. There are also very few food sources of vitamin D, making it nearly impossible for adults to get sufficient vitamin D from diet alone. Therefore, Osteoporosis Canada recommends routine vitamin D supplementation for Canadian adults year-round.

Osteoporosis Canada recommends routine vitamin D supplementation for Canadian adults year-round.

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.

The best supplement to purchase is vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). While most multivitamins or calcium supplements contain some vitamin D, the amounts can vary, so it’s important to read the label carefully to ensure you are getting the amounts you need. If you aren’t sure about the amounts in the supplements you are taking, please check with your pharmacist.

Adding vitamin D enhanced foods to your diet is another great way to increase intake of vitamin D. In Canada, vitamin D fortification is mandated for margarine, infant formula, formulated liquid diets, cow’s milk and 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.

Vitamin D Food Sources

FoodServing SizeIU's Per Serving
Orange Juice, Fortified1/2 c/125 mL50
Margarine, fortified5 mL/1 tsp25-36
Mushrooms, white125 mL/ 1/2 c4
Swordfish, Baked or Broiled75 g761
Salmon, pink, Canned, Drained with solids and bones75 g435
Cod Liver Oil5 mL/1 tsp 426
Salmon (Sockeye), Baked or Broiled75 g394
Snapper, Baked or Broiled75 g392
Milk (all types)1 c/250 mL103-105
Soy Beverage, Enriched1 c/250 mL86
Yogurt, Plain, Vitamin D Added175 g82-113
Egg Yolk, cooked2 Large64
Tuna, canned in water, drained unsalted75 g60
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