Vitamin D, otherwise known as the Sunshine Vitamin because our skin makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, has been receiving a lot of press lately. This is due in part to the increasing realization among scientists that the amount of D we need may be far more than the current Dietary Recommended Intake suggests.

Our bodies need vitamin D for several reasons, including calcium absorption and maintenance of healthy bones.

The Dietary Recommended Intake for vitamin D for males and females from birth to age 50 is 5 micrograms or 200 International Units. For adults age 51 to 70 the amount increases to 10 micrograms or 400 International Units. At age 71 the amount increases to 15 micrograms or 600 International Units.

However, last October, the American Academy of Pediatrics issued new recommendations for vitamin D intake. The AAP recommends that all children receive 10 mcg (400 IU) of vitamin D each day. This amount is double the amount of the current DRI (5 mcg, 200 IU).

The National Osteoporosis Foundation also issued updated recommendations on vitamin D intake. They now recommend that adults under age 50 get 10 to 20 mcg (400 to 800 IU) of vitamin D each day; adults over 50 should get 20 to 25 mcg (800 to 1,000 IU). Again, these amounts are far greater than the current DRI.

If our skin is capable of making vitamin D you may be wondering why you need to worry about ingesting it at all.

The amount of vitamin D our skin makes depends on several factors, including the amount of time we spend outdoors, our use of sunscreen, where we live, our skin color, and how old we are. For those of us in northern locations, the wintertime sun is not strong enough for skin to make vitamin D even if we are outside with some skin exposed. In southern locations and during the summer months many of us use sunscreen which prevents the body from making vitamin D.

So, what can you do to help increase your intake of vitamin D?

Eat more fish.
Fish, such as salmon and fish oils, such as cod liver oil are natural sources of vitamin D. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, a 3.5 ounce portion of cooked salmon contains 360 International Units of D and 1 tablespoon of cod liver oil contains 1,360 International Units of D (yum!!).

Drink vitamin D fortified milk or soy milk.
Almost all milk is fortified with D. According to the USDA’s National Nutrient Database, a cup of 1% milk contains 127 International Units of D.

If you do not drink milk, many soy, nut, and grain “milks” are fortified with vitamin D. Some orange juice is as well. To determine whether the brand you drink is fortified with vitamin D, read the ingredients list. If a food is fortified with D, then the amount each serving contains (expressed as a percent Daily Value) will be found in the Nutrition Facts label. The Daily Value for vitamin D is 10 micrograms.

Eat gluten-free rice Chex.
While many mainstream breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D, most gluten-free cereals are not. The only specially-formulated gluten-free cereal that I am aware of that is fortified with D is General Mills brand Rice Chex. Each 1 cup of cereal provides 10% of the Daily Value for D (40 International Units).

Take a multivitamin and mineral supplement.
Many contain 400 International Units of vitamin D but check the label just to make sure.

To learn more about vitamin D please see the Office of Dietary Supplements fact sheet at

Copyright © by Tricia Thompson, MS, RD

Originally published January 2009. This page will be updated soon.

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Getting enough of the sunshine vitamin