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Everything You Need To Know About Vitamin D

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Life Extension. Thank you for supporting the work we’re doing at Food Heaven!

Did you know that up to 82% of African Americans have insufficient vitamin D levels?

Let’s talk.

You’ve probably heard about the sunshine vitamin. But what exactly is it and why do we need it? In short, vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s both obtained from foods and produced by the body when the skin is exposed to sunlight. 

Today we partnered with Life Extension to talk all about vitamin D. In this article, we’ll cover why we need vitamin D, which foods are good sources,  considerations for vitamin D and sunlight, how to know if you are vitamin D deficient and what to do if your levels are low.

Vitamin D

You may be wondering what exactly we need vitamin D. In short, vitamin D plays a key role in: 

  • Bone health
  • Immune function
  • Brain health
  • Heart function 
  • Maintaining optimal blood pressure levels

How much Vitamin D do I need? 

The recommended daily amount of vitamin D is 400 international units (IU) for children up to age 12 months, 600 IU for ages 1 to 70 years, and 800 IU for people over 70 years.

Which foods contain vitamin D? 

Food, Serving Size, Vitamin D (IU) 

  • Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon, 1,350 IUs
  • Halibut, 3 ounces, 510 IUs
  • Catfish, 3 ounces, 425 IUs
  • Salmon, canned 3 ounces 390 IUs
  • Mackerel, 3 ounces, 306 IUs
  • Sardines, canned 1.75 ounces 250 IUs
  • Tuna, canned, in water drained 3 ounces, 200 IUs
  • Egg Yolk, 1 yolk, 20 IUs
  • Swiss cheese, 1 ounce, 12 IUs
  • Fortified Soy Milk, 1 cup, 119 IUs
  • Fortified Almond Milk, 1 cup, 102 IUs
  • Fortified Cow’s Milk, 1 cup, 100 IUs
  • Fortified breakfast cereal, 1 cup, 20 – 100 IUs
  • Fortified yogurt, 6 ounces, 80 IUs

How do I get vitamin D from the sun?

The amount of sun exposure a person needs to create adequate amounts of vitamin D varies, depending on an individual’s age, skin color, and underlying health conditions. For example, people with darker skin need more sun exposure to promote adequate vitamin D synthesis. Additionally, the synthesis of vitamin  D from the skin decreases with age. Research suggests that approximately 5 to 30 minutes of sun exposure between 10AM and 3PM at least twice per week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen is adequate for vitamin D synthesis. However, initially, time spent in the sun without sunscreen should be done in small doses during non-peak sun hours (peak hours are 10-3 or 11-4 depending on the season).

If I do decide to take a supplement, how much should I take?

If you suspect that you’re not getting adequate vitamin D through foods or sun exposure, you may want to consider getting your vitamin D levels checked by your primary care provider or through a third party. Life Extension also offers a reliable vitamin D blood test at a fraction of what most commercial blood labs charge, this is a helpful resource for anyone having a hard time getting a prescription from their PCP. If you are vitamin D deficient, and unable to meet your needs through food and/or sun exposure, supplementation is often recommended. The amount you take depends on your Vitamin D test results and should be determined by your doctor and/or Registered Dietitian. If you are looking for a quality supplement brand to try, Life Extension makes an affordable vitamin D3 supplement that has been independently tested for quality, purity, and potency. The crazy thing is that my doctor JUST diagnosed me with vitamin D deficiency a couple of weeks ago, so I’ve been taking these supplements my darn self. Check it out here! Please note that not everyone is a good candidate for supplementation (especially those on medications that may interfere with supplements). ALWAYS speak with your doctor, dietitian or pharmacist before starting any supplement regimen. 

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These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.


Dawson-Hughes, Bess. Vitamin D deficiency in adults: Definition, clinical manifestations, and treatment. In: UpToDate, Drenzer, MK; Rosen,  CJ; Mulder JE (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA, 2017. 

“Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D.” Office of Dietary Supplements – HOME. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 July 2017. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Adult Nutrition Care Manual.

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee to Review Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin D and Calcium; Ross AC, Taylor CL, Yaktine AL, et al.,  editors. Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2011. 6, Tolerable Upper  Intake Levels: Calcium and Vitamin D. Available from:

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