Nutrition advice

The essentials of vitamin D: a ray of sunshine for your health

1/4/2024
4 min

Vitamin D plays a critical role in various aspects of our health, including the strength of our bones and the proper functioning of our immune system. In Canada, sun exposure, our primary source of vitamin D, can sometimes be insufficient (1). Therefore, it's crucial to know how to incorporate this vitamin into our diet. You will find in this article information on the importance of vitamin D and tips to help you maximise its health benefits.

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning your body can store it in its fat reserves for future use. This vitamin is essential for several body functions:

  • Bone and dental health: Vitamin D facilitates the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, vital for developing and maintaining strong bones and teeth. This function is particularly important in preventing osteoporosis in older adults (2).
  • Immune system: It also strengthens the immune system, protecting against infections and certain autoimmune diseases (3).
  • Chronic disease prevention: Ongoing research explores its potential role in reducing the risk of some chronic diseases, such as certain types of cancer (4).
Dietary sources of vitamin D

While our skin produces vitamin D when exposed to sunlight, in Canada, especially during the winter months, it can be challenging to obtain enough vitamin D solely from sun exposure. Fortunately, there are several dietary sources of vitamin D (5):

  • Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, and herring are among the best sources of vitamin D. A serving of red salmon can contain between 394 and 636 IU of vitamin D.
  • Fortified dairy products and alternatives: Fortified milk and soy beverages provide a good amount of vitamin D. For example, a cup of milk can contain between 103 and 105 IU of vitamin D.
  • Eggs: The egg yolk is a natural source of vitamin D. Two medium eggs provide about 47 IU of vitamin D. Try this salmon frittata recipe for a two-in-one deal!
  • Mushrooms: Some varieties of mushrooms, when exposed to ultraviolet light, increase their vitamin D content, offering between 9 and 21 IU per half-cup.
Recommended amount

According to Health Canada, daily vitamin D needs vary by age and other factors, as shown in the table below:

  • Men and women aged 19 to 70: 600 IU/day.
  • Men and women aged 71 and older: 800 IU/day.
  • Pregnant and/or breastfeeding women aged 19 and older: 600 IU/day.
  • In all cases, do not exceed 4000 IU/day.

Adults over 50 are advised to take a 400 IU vitamin D supplement daily (6).

Tips to optimise your vitamin D intake
  1. Incorporate vitamin D-rich foods into your diet: Make conscious dietary choices by including fatty fish, fortified dairy products, mushrooms, and eggs in your meal planning.
  2. Safely enjoy the sun: During the sunnier months, brief exposure of 10 to 15 minutes, several times a week, can promote vitamin D production, especially if you expose your hands, face, and arms. Afterward, applying sunscreen is advised to protect against the harmful effects of UV rays.
  3. Consider supplementation: During the winter months, a vitamin D supplement may be necessary to reach the recommended intake.
Boost your health with professional help

Vitamin D is essential for a multitude of bodily functions, from bone health to immune system regulation. Ensure you integrate enough vitamin D sources into your diet or consider supplementation after consulting a healthcare professional.

Remember that with a Bonjour-santé membership, members have access to two exceptional nutrition services: get quick and free advice from Bonjour-santé nutritionists-dietitians, or enjoy an exclusive discount on an initial assessment consultation with a nutritionist-dietitian from our partner ÉquipeNutrition. The nutritionist will be able to provide you with customised support and guide you towards an optimal diet, whatever your health objective. Login to your Bonjour-santé account to take advantage of these and other health services, or become a member.

References

  1. Naître et grandir. (2024). Vitamin D. Retrieved from https://naitreetgrandir.com/en/health/vitamin-d-sun/
  2. Cranney A, Horsley T, O'Donnell S, Weiler H, Puil L, Ooi D, Atkinson S, Ward L, Moher D, Hanley D, Fang M, Yazdi F, Garritty C, Sampson M, Barrowman N, Tsertsvadze A, Mamaladze V. Effectiveness and safety of vitamin D in relation to bone health. Evid Rep Technol Assess (Full Rep). 2007 Aug;(158):1-235. PMID: 18088161; PMCID: PMC4781354.
  3. Sîrbe C, Rednic S, Grama A, Pop TL. An Update on the Effects of Vitamin D on the Immune System and Autoimmune Diseases. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Aug 29;23(17):9784. doi: 10.3390/ijms23179784. PMID: 36077185; PMCID: PMC9456003.
  4. Muñoz A, Grant WB. Vitamin D and Cancer: An Historical Overview of the Epidemiology and Mechanisms. Nutrients. 2022 Mar 30;14(7):1448. doi: 10.3390/nu14071448. PMID: 35406059; PMCID: PMC9003337.
  5. Dietitians of Canada. (2018). Dietary sources of vitamin D. Retrieved February 7, 2018, from https://www.pennutrition.com/KnowledgePathway.aspx?kpid=16669&trid=13891&trcatid=467.
  6. Government of Canada. (2022, May 2). Vitamin D. Health Canada. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/nutrients/vitamin-d.html

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