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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

How to get your daily vitamin D

Me pēhea e kai i tō huaora D o ia rā

We need vitamin D for strong bones and muscles and for 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 does not 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 is not enough by itself.

Your body cannot 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. Most people only need a short amount of time in the sun to make enough vitamin D.

The amount of sun exposure you can have safely depends on several factors such as:

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

September to April

A daily walk or some other form of outdoor physical activity in the early morning or late afternoon is recommended.

To avoid too much sun, use protection (shade, clothing coverage, a hat that shades your face and neck, sunscreen, sunglasses). This is especially important between 10 am and 4 pm and whenever UV levels are high. You can check the daily recommendations for your area on SunSmart.

May to August

A daily walk or another form of outdoor physical activity in the hours around noon with your face, arms and hands exposed is recommended.

If you are near snow, water or at a high altitude, you should always use sunscreen. Otherwise you can check when sun protection is recommended in your area on SunSmart.

Food

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

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

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2023.

Sources

Page reference: 689952

Review key: HIOSP-24517