Vitamin D Overview Sources

Doctors and scientists are beginning to realize the complex role vitamin D plays in our overall health. The relationship between vitamin D, calcium and bone health has long been known, but in the past few years, research has also linked low vitamin D intake to conditions like heart disease, diabetes and breast cancer.

Given the known and suspected health benefits of vitamin D, many people are concerned about getting enough of this vital nutrient. Fortunately, it’s relatively easy for most individuals to get enough vitamin D. In fact, you might not even need to change your diet! That’s because the most common source of vitamin D is the sun.

Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D and Sunlight

We get most of the vitamins that our body needs through the foods we eat. Vitamin D, however, is the only nutrient that your body can actually manufacture itself. For many people, spending 10 minutes outside every day (with your face, hands or other body parts exposed and not covered by sunscreen) means that you’ll get all the vitamin D you need.

However, some people have trouble getting enough vitamin D from the sun alone. For example, people living in the northern part of the United States often don’t get enough strong sun exposure in the winter months to manufacture all the vitamin D they need. In addition, factors such as dark skin, pollution and cloud cover can affect how much vitamin D your body is able to produce on its own.

Vitamin D and Food

A few foods naturally contain small amounts of vitamin D. Foods that are natural sources of vitamin D include:

  • Beef liver
  • Cheese
  • Egg yolks
  • Mackerel
  • Salmon
  • Tuna.

Certain foods you eat may also be fortified with vitamin D. This means that extra vitamin D has been added to the food. In the United States, milk is commonly fortified with vitamin D. That’s because your body needs vitamin D in order to be able to absorb the calcium in milk. Other foods that are commonly fortified with vitamin D include:

  • Breakfast cereals
  • Margarine
  • Juices.

It’s almost impossible for a person to get all the vitamin D he needs from food alone, unless you eat large quantities of dairy and fish on a regular basis. Most people get the vitamin D they need from a combination of sun exposure and dietary sources.

Vitamin D Supplements

In some cases, your doctor may advise you to take vitamin D supplements. Those that may want to consider a vitamin D supplement include:

  • Breastfed infants
  • People with fat malabsorption
  • People who have had gastric bypass surgery.

Talk to your doctor if you think you’re not getting enough vitamin D. However, extremely high vitamin D levels can cause health problems, so you should check with a medical professional before adding vitamin D supplements to your diet.


Kotz, D. (2008). Time in the sun: How much is needed for vitamin D? Retrieved December 10, 2009, from the US News