Vitamin D

Young women's version of this guide

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 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?

Both children and adolescents should 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, mushrooms, egg yolks, and products fortified with vitamin D such as milk, orange juice, and some yogurts. Although it’s best 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 on the bottle and make sure one serving provides at least 600 IU of vitamin D.

Can I get too much vitamin D?

You can’t get too much vitamin D from the sun or from eating 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 the minimum is 600 IU per day. More is not always better! Taking 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
Total® Cereal1/2 cup182
Fortified Milk1 cup48
Fortified Soy Milk1 cup44
Fortified Orange Juice1 cup42
Raisin Bran® Cereal1 cup102
Tuna (canned)3 ounces48
Egg (whole)1 large egg44
Kellogs® low-fat granola with raisins2/3 cup40
Kix® Cereal1 cup132

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

Yes. Many teens do not get enough vitamin D.

Am I at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?

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