How can I increase the level of vitamin D in my body?

Kat Barefield, MS, RD
Nutrition & Dietetics
The safest and most practical way to increase the body’s level of Vitamin D is by taking a daily multivitamin and mineral formula (MVM) that contains between 600 and 1200 international units (IUs) of Vitamin D. The new recommended daily intake is 600 IUs for adults up to age 70, which is 3 times more than the previous recommendation. For people older than 70, the new goal is 800 IUs per day. Considering research shows that most people never met the previous lower recommendations, to reach these new goals with food alone is probably not likely for most. Food sources of Vitamin D are scarce or undesirable, and sunlight, which can produce Vitamin D under the right conditions, is no longer recommended because it increases the risk of skin cancer and is too variable.

Below is a list of foods with relatively high Vitamin D content. Other than milk and possibly eggs, these foods are not common to the daily American diet. Add the facts that many adults no longer get nearly as much milk as when they were younger and you would need a lot of eggs to make a dent in your daily requirements. Therefore, a MVM makes the most sense since it also contains other nutrients your diet may be short on.
  • Cooked salmon (3.5 ounces) -- 360 IUs
  • Cooked mackerel 3.5 ounces) -- 345 IUs
  • Tuna fish in oil (3.0 ounces) -- 200 IUs
  • Vitamin D fortified milk (1cup/ 8 fl oz) -- 98 IUs
  • Fortified cereal (3/4-1 cup) -- 40 IUs
  • Egg (1 each) -- 20 IUs
  • Swiss Cheese (1 ounce) -- 12 IUs
Quick facts on Vitamin D: although the Institute of Medicine (IOM) raised the recommendation of Vitamin D as noted above, most top Vitamin D researchers still think they are too low. Many recent studies have linked high blood levels of Vitamin D to a reduced risk of many chronic diseases including heart disease, hypertension, cancers, diabetes and others. Therefore, most Vitamin D experts recommend blood levels of 25-hydroxyvitamin D to be no less than 30ng/ml (nanograms per milliliter), which may require a daily intake of at least 1000IUs/day of Vitamin D.
Your body gets vitamin D in three ways: from the foods you eat, from supplements and from exposure to sunlight (which helps your skin make vitamin D). The easiest way to increase your level of vitamin D may be to spend more time outdoors. Talk to your doctor about how much time you can safely spend in the sun without getting sunburned and the best ways to protect your skin while still getting the benefits of the "sunshine vitamin."

You can also increase your vitamin D levels by eating foods rich in this nutrient, including canned and fresh fish, cod liver oil, liver, eggs and fortified foods such as milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals. If you and your doctor don't think you're getting enough vitamin D from these sources, your doctor may recommend a vitamin D supplement.
There are three ways to get vitamin D: food, sunlight, and supplements. If you're not getting enough from your diet, or you don't spend much time outdoors (just 10-20 minutes in the sun can significantly boost your body's production of vitamin D), take a daily vitamin D supplement.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.