Supplementing the Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D has been getting a lot of positive press over the last 5 years causing health care practitioners to recommend vitamin D supplements to just about anyone.  It seems that many Canadians are not getting enough and when tested show a vitamin D deficiency.  It takes only 10 to 15 minutes in the sun to obtain a whopping 10,000 – 20,000 IU of vitamin D (which our body can store), but during the winter months our Canadian sunlight is not strong enough depleting our vitamin D stores.  Especially if we’ve spent the entire summer slathered in sunscreen!  Image result for sunshine vitamin

The main role of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus.  Vitamin D also helps the body absorb calcium, which forms and maintains strong bones.  Studies also show that vitamin D may protect against high blood pressure, certain cancers and other diseases.  And there may be a link  between vitamin D and flu prevention.

Health Canada recommends that we consume 600 IU of vitamin D a day, 800 IU a day if 71 years of age or older.  In light of new research, many health institutions and physicians believe this number should be higher and recommend 1,000 – 2,000 IU of vitamin D daily for optimal health.  When supplementing or purchasing foods fortified with vitamin D make sure you purchase vitamin D3 as this is the form made by human skin (as opposed to vitamin D2 which is made by plants). 

Better than supplements, some foods also naturally contain vitamin D although the list is short. 

1 cup of milk is fortified with approximately 100 IU of vitamin D.  Image result for food sources of Vitamin D

1 large egg with yolk has 20 – 40 IU.

2 canned sardines have 60 IU. 

3 oz of beef liver 42 IU.

3 oz cooked salmon has 447 IU.

3 oz of canned white tuna has 84 IU.

1 tsp cod liver oil has 450 IU (and anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids)



 Issue #1

Perhaps vitamin D deficiency is a marker of deteriorating health (aging, inflammatory processes).  So it is not the cause of illness but instead a result.  This would explain why vitamin D deficiency is reported in a wide range of disorders.  This would mean that healthy individuals with adequate levels of vitamin D do not need a supplement, a vitamin D supplement will not prevent an illness from developing. 

 Issue #2

In regards to bone health vitamin D is crucial but it will not reduce bone loss if you already have adequate levels of vitamin D in your blood.  Higher amounts in the body are not beneficial. 



  1. The best source of any vitamin and mineral is its natural source.  Safely get some sun on your skin in the summer.  No sunscreen for the first 5 – 15 minutes (depending on your skin colour) for example.  And do not throw out your egg yolks!
  2. Add fatty fish to your diet regularly and/or take a cod liver oil supplement.
  3. Don’t just assume that you need a vitamin D supplement.  First have a blood test to see if you have a deficiency.  Note that you may have to pay for this blood test if not ordered by a doctor.