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Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

I have heard about vitamin D and its health benefits. Doesn't our body make it? What foods contain vitamin D?
Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin

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Vitamin D is important for strong bones, plus it may play a part in preventing heart disease, cancer and several other illnesses. Our bodies make vitamin D by the action of sun on our skin.  However, skin cancer is on the rise, so we need to be careful not to overdo sun exposure during  summer months. According to some studies, 15 minutes of sun exposure twice a week is all we need to make enough vitamin D. During winter months in northern areas such as ours, making  enough vitamin D is hard. Ensure you get enough by including vitamin D-rich foods in your diet  or with a supplement.

According to recent recommendations, most people need at least 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D per day. Your health-care provider might advise a supplement. Some food sources and the amount of vitamin D per serving are shown below:

  • Salmon (sockeye): 447 IU per 3 ounces
  • Tuna fish: 154 IU per 3 ounces
  • Milk: 115 IU per cup
  • Fortified cereal and some types of juice, some types of yogurt and cheese

– The amount of vitamin D they contain varies, so read the nutrition label to learn more.

Be Sun Savvy

  • Limit sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Wear hats, shirts and other protective clothing.
  • Apply sunscreen before going outside. Reapply every two hours.


Julie Garden-Robinson, Food and Nutrition Specialist, NDSU Extension Service

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