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HealthInfo Canterbury

How to get your daily vitamin D

We need vitamin D for strong bones and muscles and general health. It helps your body take in enough calcium from the food you eat.

Your body makes most of the vitamin D it needs in your skin when exposed to direct sunlight. Sunlight through glass doesn't work because the glass blocks out the ultraviolet B rays needed to make vitamin D. You can get some vitamin D from foods, but this alone isn't enough.

Your body can't store much vitamin D, so you need to keep topping it up.

Being low in vitamin D can cause muscle aches and thinning bones leading to osteoporosis.

Risk factors for being low in vitamin D include:

Getting enough vitamin D

Sensible sun exposure is the best way to get your vitamin D. For most people, this is about 20 minutes each day. The amount of sun exposure you can have safely will vary depending on several factors such as:

General recommendations for New Zealand depend on the time of year:

Food

You can get some vitamin D from food but it's very difficult to get enough just from eating. Food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish (salmon, herrings, mackerel), liver and eggs. Some margarine, milks and yoghurt have added vitamin D.

For more information on how much to eat of these foods, see Eating well for strong healthy bones.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Page created February 2020.

Page reference: 689952

Review key: HIOSP-24517