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Why Vitamin D?
Why Vitamin D?
Why Vitamin D?
Why Vitamin D?
Why Vitamin D?
Sources of Vitamin D

Knowing your Vitamin D sources is critical as there are very few foods that naturally contain Vitamin D. Several recent studies show that a substantial amount of children and adults are Vitamin D deficient. Read here to find out how you can obtain Vitamin D for your health.

Sources of Vitamin D

Sunlight and Artificial UVB rays

  • A total of 15 minutes of summer noonday sun or artificial UVB rays (tanning beds)
    on both sides of the bare body will provide 10,000 IU of vitamin D in the bloodstream
    of most fair-skinned adults
  • The Canadian Dermatology Association and Health Canada advise against direct
    exposure of sunlight, especially for infants
  • The Canadian Cancer Society recommends to keep babies less than 1 year old out
    of direct sun
  • The use of sunscreen with a sun protection factor of eight reduces the cutaneous
    production of vitamin D by 97.5% in adults
  • Dark-skinned infants are particularly at risk for developing rickets as they require
    increased exposure to sunlight to produce the same amount of vitamin D compared
    to light-skinned infants.
  • Sunburns are associated with skin cancer (malignant melanoma) and regular UV light exposure increases the risk of non-melanoma skin cancers and ages the skin

There are 4 main sources
of vitamin D:

  • Sunlight
  • Artificial UVB light (tanning beds)
  • Some foods (natural and fortified)
  • Supplements

Food Sources of vitamin D
In nature, there are very few dietary sources of Vitamin D. See Table below.

Dietary SourceApproximate Vitamin D₂ and D₃ Content*
Natural common dietary sources 
Salmon, Fresh Wild, 3.5oz (~100 grams)600-1000 IU of vitamin D₃
Salmon, Fresh Farmed, 3.5oz (~100 grams)100-250 IU of vitamin D₂ or D₃
Salmon, canned, 3.5oz (~100 grams)300-600 IU of vitamin D₃
Sardines, canned, 3.5oz (~100 grams)300 IU of vitamin D₃
Tuna, canned, 3.6 oz (~100 grams)230 IU of vitamin D₃
Shiitake Mushrooms, fresh, 3.5 oz (~100 grams)100 IU of vitamin D₂
Shiitake Mushrooms, sun-dried, 3.5 oz (~100 grams)640 IU of vitamin D₂
Egg yolk, one20 IU of vitamin D₂ or D₃
Fortified dietary sources
**All cow’s milk (fortified), 250 mL98 IU of vitamin D₃
Infant formula (fortified), 250 mL100 IU of vitamin D₃
Margarine (fortified), 1 tsp25 IU of vitamin D₃
Yogurt (fortified), 8oz (~230 mL)100 IU of vitamin D₃
Cheeses (fortified), 3.5 oz (~100 grams)100 IU of vitamin D₃
Breakfast cereals (fortified), average serving size40-50 IU of vitamin D₃
***Fortified plant-based beverage, 250 mL80 IU of vitamin D₃

* 1 ųg (mcg) = 40 IU of vitamin D, when the terms calciferol or ergocalciferol are used, the product usually contains vitamin D₂; when the term cholecalciferol is used, the product usually contains vitamin D₃
**Cow’s milk is generally not recommended until at least 9 to 12 months of age
***Vegetarian beverages are inappropriate alternatives to breast milk, infant formula or cow’s milk in the first 2 years of life.

The table below lists some standard vitamin D supplements on the Canadian Market:

Supplement Vitamin D content AA
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) 50,000 IU vitamin D₂/ capsule
8,000 IU vitamin D₂ / mL liquid
Over the Counter (Combination vitamins)
Multivitamin 400 IU of vitamin D₃
Cod Liver Oil (1tsp – 5mL) B 453 IU of vitamin D₃
Calcium + vitamin D 400 IU of vitamin D₃(Caltrate®)
Over the Counter (Vitamin D only preparations)
(Baby Ddrops® and Kids Ddrops® 400 IU and 1,000 IU)
400 IU of vitamin D₃ /drop (Baby Ddrops®)
400 IU of vitamin D₃/1mL (convention water-based drops)
1000 IU of vitamin D₃/ 5 mL (Quest – My little Sunshine®)
1,000 IU of vitamin D₃/drop (Ddrops® 1,000IU)
Capsules 400 IU of vitamin D₃/capsule
800 IU of vitamin D₃/capsule
1,000 IU of vitamin D₃/capsule

Adapted from Health Canada 2004, Holick, MF 2007, Vieth, R 2005, Office of Dietary Supplements, NIH 2008.
A 1 ųg (mcg) = 40 IU of vitamin D, when the terms calciferol or ergocalciferol are used, the product usually contains vitamin D2; when the term cholecalciferol is used, the product usually contains vitamin D3. D3 is the more potent and active form of vitamin D
B Intakes of Cod Liver Oil 1 tsp and over contain levels of vitamin A that are higher than the RDA of 3,000 IU for adults 19 years and older

1Vieth R. Vitamin D supplementation, 25-hydroxyvitamin D concentrations, and safety. Am J Clin Nutr 1999;69:842-56.
2The International Agency for Research on Cancer Working Group on artificial ultraviolet (UV) light and skin cancer "The association of use of sunbeds with cutaneous malignant melanoma and other skin cancers: A systematic review.” International Journal of Cancer. 2007 March 1;120:111-1122.
3Canadian Cancer Society. Protect Yourself from the Sun.
4Health Canada, www.healthcanada.ca/nutrition
5Health Canada, www.healthcanada.ca/nutrition
6Lu Z, Chen TC, Zhang A, Persons KS, Kohn N, Berkowitz R, Martinello S, Holick MF. An evaluation of the vitamin D(3) content in fish: Is the vitamin D content adequate to satisfy the dietary requirement for vitamin D? J Steroid Biochem Mol Biol. 2007 Jan 29.
7Holick, MF. Vitamin D Deficiency. New England Journal of Medicine 2007;357: 266-281
8Vitamin D Supplementation for Breastfed infants; 2004 Health Canada Recommendation
9Vieth R. The Pharmacology of Vitamin D, including Fortification Strategies. In: Feldman D, Glorieux F, Pike JW eds. Vitamin D. New York: Elsevier 2005: 995-1015.
10Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin D. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health 12/11/2008.