Getting enough Vitamin D, all year long

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By Molly Martyn, MD

Getting enough Vitamin D is an important part of staying healthy. Vitamin D helps with calcium absorption, and thus is a critical part of how our bodies make and maintain strong bones. Research shows that it also plays a role in keeping our immune systems healthy and may help to prevent certain chronic diseases.

Many of us get our Vitamin D from the sun and from drinking milk, but families often wonder how to help their children get enough Vitamin D to meet daily requirements.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants receive 400 International Units (IU’s) per day of Vitamin D. For children older than one year, the recommended amount is 600 IU’s per day.

Vitamin D is found in a number of foods, some naturally and some through fortification. Foods that are naturally high in Vitamin D include oily fish (such as salmon, sardines, and mackerel), beef liver, egg yolks, mushrooms, and cheese. Below are some estimates of Vitamin D levels (per serving) of a variety of foods.

TYPE OF FOOD IU’s of VITAMIN D PER SERVING
Salmon, 3.5 ounces 360 IU’s
Tuna Fish (canned), 1.75 ounces 200 IU’s
Shrimp, 4 ounces 162 IU’s
Orange Juice (Vitamin D fortified), 1 cup 137 IU’s
Milk (Vitamin D fortified), 1 cup 100 IU’s
Egg, 1 large 41 IU’s
Cereal (Vitamin D fortified), ¾ cup 40 IU’s
Shitake mushrooms, 1 cup 29 IU’s

All infants who are breast fed (and even many who are formula fed) should receive a daily Vitamin D supplement.

In addition, the majority of children do not eat diets high in foods containing Vitamin D. Thus, a Vitamin D supplement or multivitamin may be an important part of helping them meet their daily requirements. Talk to your child’s health care provider about recommendations.

The National Institutes of Health have more information on Vitamin D on their website, including Vitamin D recommendations for all age groups.