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Diet Diva
Diet Diva

Get advice on healthy eating, nutrition, and weight loss from expert dietitian Tara Gidus. 

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"D" Deficient?

Vitamin D is the new "hot" vitamin that everyone is talking about. We have known for a long time that Vitamin D is necessary to build bones because it helps the body absorb calcium. A deficiency of Vitamin D is known as rickets, or softening of the bone. New research shows that Vitamin D may have a very important role in the prevention of numerous diseases such as:
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Depression
  • Epilepsy
  • Migraine headaches
  • Cancer
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

Researchers are so convinced of the positive effects of Vitamin D and the prevalence of Vitamin D deficiency that they are urging the Food and Nutrition Board to raise the recommended intakes as well as the upper tolerable limit. Right now the recommended intake is set at 200 IU for everyone up to age 50, 400 IU for age 51-70, and 600 IU for those 70 and older. The safe upper limit is set at 2,000 IU, but many experts think this is actually the level many people should be getting.

Sunshine Vitamin
Vitamin D is known as the "Sunshine Vitamin" because our bodies actually make Vitamin D when our skin in exposed to direct sunlight. Since I live in Florida (aka the "Sunshine State") I brushed off all of the Vitamin D reports thinking I was getting enough. However, even though I live in Florida, I still do not spend at least 10-20 minutes per day getting direct sun exposure on large areas of skin. Even though I am getting more Vitamin D from the sun because I am closer to the equator than my friends in Wisconsin, I may still not be getting enough. The fact that we are well informed about the need for sunscreen doesn't help our Vitamin D exposure, either. If the sun rays can't get through to the skin (sunscreen is blocking them), Vitamin D is not getting produced.

Food sources
Cod Liver Oil is actually the best source, but I don't recommend taking it. Salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines have about 200-350 IU per 3 oz serving. Milk is fortified and one cup has 100 IU. Margarine is also fortified with 1 T. providing 60 IU. Even though milk is fortified, cheese and other dairy products are generally not fortified. Some cereals are fortified, check labels to see how much of the Daily Value they provide. As you can see, we are lucky to get 200 IU in our diet, let alone the 1,000 IU many health professionals recommend.

If you do not think you are getting enough sun exposure or Vitamin D in your food, you may want to consider a supplement. The best supplement will be in the form of D3. Many researchers recommend taking 1,000 IU of D3 for everyone.

For more information, check out the Office of Dietary Supplement's info on Vitamin D
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About the Author


Tara Gidus is a nationally recognized expert and spokesperson on nutrition and fitness.

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