Vitamin D

Young women's version of this guide
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You may know that vitamin D is important for you, but do you also know that you can get vitamin D from the sun? Read on to learn how you can get the vitamin D your body needs to stay healthy.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D helps your immune system function effectively, reduces inflammation, and helps your body absorb calcium. Calcium is a mineral that gives strength to your bones and teeth, and helps your nerves and muscles function properly.

Why is vitamin D important?

The teenage years are the most important for bone growth and development. If you don’t get enough vitamin D during your teenage years, you may be at risk of stress fractures now and for osteoporosis when you get older. Osteoporosis is the development of weak bones that, over time, can break easily.

How much vitamin D do I need?

It’s recommended that children and adolescents get at least 600 IU (international units) of vitamin D each day. Supplements should be taken with food to improve absorption.

Where can I get vitamin D?

Your body can create vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. However, sunscreen blocks your skin’s ability to make vitamin D. Given the risk for skin cancer with sun exposure, using sunscreen is advised. Other ways to get vitamin D are through your diet or by taking a vitamin D supplement.

The best food sources of vitamin D are fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, and products fortified with vitamin D such as milk, orange juice, and some yogurts. Although it’s great to get vitamins and minerals from food, taking a vitamin is another way to get the right amount. If you do decide to take a multivitamin supplement, check the label and make sure one serving provides at least 600 IU (international units) of vitamin.

Can I get too much vitamin D?

You can’t get too much vitamin D from the sun or from certain food. However, taking too much vitamin D as a supplement can be harmful. Research studies have shown that the maximum amount of vitamin D a teen should get is 4000 IU per day, and minimum is 600 IU per day. More is not always better! Too much vitamin D can result in kidney stones.

Below is a table of some healthy foods that contain vitamin D:

FoodServingIUs Vitamin D
Salmon (cooked)3.5 ounces518
Shrimp (canned)3 ounces152
Total Cereal1 cup133
Fortified Milk1 cup116
Fortified Soy Milk1 cup104
Fortified Orange Juice1 cup100
Raisin Bran Cereal1 cup91
Tuna (canned)3 ounces68
Egg (whole)1 large egg41
Kellogs low-fat granola with raisins2/3 cup40
Kix Cereal1 cup40
Quaker instant oatmeal1 packet154

Is vitamin D deficiency (not enough) a concern for teens?

Yes. Many teens do not get enough vitamin D.

Am I at risk for Vitamin D deficiency (not enough)?

Many people are at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Talk to your health care provider to see if you should have a vitamin D blood test.

Being active outside on a sunny day, drinking milk, and drinking or eating nutritious foods fortified with vitamin D such as fortified orange juice will give you enough of this important vitamin to keep your body fit and strong.