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3 easy ways to get vitamin D

Medically reviewed by Rosanna Sutherby, PharmD on August 11, 2020. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.


Interested in learning how to get more vitamin D so you can help prevent deficiency and support your health? If so, read on—because from food to vitamin D supplementation and well-planned time in the sun, here you’ll learn more about 3 easy ways to boost your vitamin D.


Easily check your vitamin D levels with the at-home vitamin D blood test.


1. Sunshine

There’s a good reason why vitamin D is popularly known as the “sunshine vitamin”: when your skin is exposed to sunshine (or, more precisely, the ultraviolet B radiation that the sun emits), vitamin D is produced. The amount of vitamin D your skin makes is influenced by several factors, including the season, the time of day (the sun’s rays are usually strongest between 10am and 3pm), the amount of cloud cover and air pollution, your altitude, and the melanin content of your skin (the darker your skin, the more sun exposure you need to get enough vitamin D from the sun).

Generally speaking, the majority of people can get enough vitamin D by going outside in the sun for short periods of time. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), some researchers suggest that approximately 5–30 minutes of sun exposure at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back—without sunscreen, and ideally between 10 AM and 3 PM—usually lead to sufficient vitamin D production. However, it’s important that you don’t burn, as sunburns can increase the risk of skin cancers.

You might be surprised to learn that your skin won’t produce vitamin D if you’re sitting inside by a sunny window. That’s because glass blocks out the sun’s ultraviolet B rays—which are responsible for triggering vitamin D production.

2. Diet

Vitamin D isn’t found naturally in very many foods—so maybe you’re wondering how to get more vitamin D sources into your daily diet. You can start by including more fatty fish in your meal planning. Salmon, tuna, and mackerel all have a high vitamin D level. Other food sources that have this vitamin (though in lower amounts) include beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks.

Many people also get their vitamin D from fortified foods, like fortified milk and cereal. The milk fortification program began in the 1930s to reduce the occurrence of rickets in the population, a major public health issue of the time. Many other dairy products, however—like cheese and ice cream—are not typically fortified. But breakfast cereal, yogurt, certain brands of orange juice, and various plant-based milk alternatives often contain added vitamin D.

Considering that many foods fortified with or naturally containing vitamin D are animal- and dairy-based, it can be challenging to receive an ample amount of vitamin D from your diet if you’re vegan or lactose intolerant. That’s one reason why some people opt for vitamin D supplements.

3. Vitamin D supplements

For those who need a little extra boost with their vitamin D intake, a dietary supplement may be a good way to go. But keep in mind that you can also have too much vitamin D, so talking with your healthcare provider before beginning vitamin D supplementation is a good step to take.

When considering how to get more vitamin D through supplements, you might wonder how much vitamin D you need on a daily basis. The answer to that depends on a number of factors unique to you (like your medical history), which is one reason why consulting with a healthcare provider about your vitamin D needs is a great idea.

For reference, here are some general guidelines related to recommended vitamin D intake ranges based on age. (Note that the amount of vitamin D in foods and supplements is usually expressed in terms of International Units or IU, so “IU/day” refers to “International Units per day.”)

Infants 0-6 months:

  • 400 IU/day for adequate intake
  • Upper level intake of 1,000 IU/day

Infants 6-12 months

  • 400 IU/day for adequate intake
  • Upper level intake of 1,500 IU/day

Children 1-3 years old

  • Recommended dietary allowance of 600 IU/day
  • Upper level intake of 2,500 IU/day

Children 4-8 years old

  • Recommended dietary allowance of 600 IU/day
  • Upper level intake of 3,000 IU/day

People 9-70 years old

  • Recommended dietary allowance of 600 IU/day
  • Upper level intake of 4,000 IU/day

People over 70 years old

  • Recommended dietary allowance of 800 IU/day
  • Upper level intake of 4,000 IU/day

Women 14-50 years old who are pregnant or lactating

  • Recommended dietary allowance of 600 IU/day
  • Upper level intake of 4,000 IU/day

The Everlywell at-home Vitamin D Test

Several different factors can contribute to low vitamin D—and can result in a number of unwanted symptoms, such as fatigue or muscle aches. But the good news is that it’s easy to find out if your vitamin D levels are too low—and it’s usually easy to reverse an insufficiency or deficiency. To learn more about your vitamin D status—the easy way—take our at-home Vitamin D Test kit.

It’s a convenient testing option because you simply collect a small sample of blood (via a quick finger prick), ship the sample to the lab for analysis (using the prepaid shipping label included with the kit), and view your results on our secure, online platform just days later.


Why do we need vitamin D?

What causes low vitamin D levels?

What should vitamin D levels be?


References

1. How to get vitamin D from sunlight. NHS. URL. Accessed August 11, 2020.

2. Vitamin D. NIH, Office of Dietary Supplements. URL. Accessed August 11, 2020.

3. Vitamin D Deficiency. Cleveland Clinic. URL. Accessed August 11, 2020.

4. Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Use of Dietary Reference Intakes in Nutrition Labeling. Dietary Reference Intakes: Guiding Principles for Nutrition Labeling and Fortification. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2003. 3, Overview of Food Fortification in the United States and Canada.