Vitamin D: From Sunshine, Diet, or Supplements?

With the summer sun upon us, and hoping that you will take advantage of the great outdoors, this is the perfect time to discuss the importance of getting sufficient amounts of sunlight for its vitamin D-boosting benefits. Vitamin D is important for maintaining healthy bones, protection against heart disease, improving blood pressure, strengthening the immune system, and protection against some cancers and depression.

In order to get enough vitamin D from the sun, you need about 15 minutes of sun exposure to the face, arms, and hands at least twice a week, without sunscreen. People who are dark-skinned will not produce as much vitamin D from sunlight as people who are light-skinned. In much of the United States, it is impossible to get enough vitamin D from the sun during winter months because the sun never gets high enough in the sky for its ultraviolet B rays to penetrate the atmosphere.

When getting enough sun isn’t possible, obtaining vitamin D from diet or supplements is a good option. Foods that are highest in vitamin D are: cod liver oil, fish (sword fish, salmon, tuna fish, sardines, oysters), fortified cereals and orange juice, fortified dairy products like milk , cheese and yogurt, eggs, fortified soy products (tofu and soy milk), and mushrooms.

When relying on supplements for your vitamin D, it’s best to follow these guidelines:

  • Use exactly as directed on the label or as prescribed by your doctor; do not take higher or lesser quantities or for longer than recommended
  • Take with a big meal or your biggest meals of the day for better absorption
  • Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat

Follow these guidelines too when taking a combination calcium/vitamin D supplement:

  • Take with food that is not high in fiber (such as bran or high fiber cereal)
  • Take with a full glass of water
  • Do not crush, chew, or break an extended-release tablet

For information on vitamin D dosages and levels, visit these websites:

Have fun in the sun!