Vitamin D – what’s your status?

By: Cara Rosenbloom, R.D.

Adults require 600 IU of vitamin D daily (age 70+ require 800 IU), but many of us are not reaching that amount. Vitamin D helps keep bones and teeth healthy, and may help fight infections, reduce heart disease risk factors and prevent some types of cancer. So, it’s important to get enough each day.

Your body can make vitamin D when your skin is exposed to the sun, but there are some possible issues if you rely solely on sunshine:Vitamin d in your diet

  1. Canadian winters do not provide enough sun exposure.
  2. Sunny seasons require sunblock, which also blocks vitamin D absorption.
  3. Skin that’s darkly pigmented with melanin is less able to make vitamin D.
  4. Adults aged 50+ may not produce vitamin D in their skin as efficiently as when they were younger.

 What can you do?

Check your status. Ask your doctor to test your vitamin D level with your next set of blood work. That will help you know if you are deficient. If you are, make sure to:

Choose foods that are rich in vitamin D:

  • Cow’s milk
  • Fortified soy, rice or rice beverages
  • Fatty fish such as salmon and trout
  • Eggs
  • Shiitake mushrooms

Consider a supplement:

Vitamin D is found in few foods, so supplements are often required. Health Canada recommends adults 50+ take 400 IU supplement daily. Supplements are also recommended if you have:

  • Low vitamin D levels
  • Osteopenia or osteoporosis
  • Vegan or vegetarian diets
  • Darkly pigmented skin

Vitamin D absorption may be hindered if you have Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, celiac disease and liver disease. Check with your doctor to ask if a vitamin D supplement is needed.


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