Why do we need vitamin D in our diets?
Vitamin D keeps our bones healthy by helping to control the amount of calcium and phosphate in our bodies. It also appears to keep our muscles healthy too.
Some people say that vitamin D is not really a vitamin because we can make it when our skin is exposed to sunlight. However, in the UK, there are concerns that we do not make enough to keep our bones and muscles healthy. It is recommended that all of us get some vitamin D from our diet during autumn and winter, and some of us may need a dietary intake all year round.
A vitamin D intake of 8.5-10mcg (micrograms) per day is recommended for infants less than one year old, and an intake of 10mcg is recommended for everyone else. Experts have provided the following advice about supplementation:
Provide/use vitamin D drops/supplement
|People aged 5+ years||Supplement during autumn and winter, but you might choose not to use one during spring and summer|
|Pregnancy and breastfeeding||Yes|
|Formula-fed babies having less than 500ml per day||Yes|
|Children 1–4 years old||Yes|
|People who do not expose their skin to sunlight regularly||Yes|
|People with darker skin||Yes|
If you choose to boost your level of vitamin D by exposing your skin to sunlight during spring and summer, make sure that it does not burn. Aim to spend short periods exposing your skin to sunlight daily, particularly between 11am and 3pm.
Considerations for vegans
It is difficult for anyone to get a daily vitamin D intake of 10mcg from food. When choosing a supplement, be aware that some types of vitamin D are not vegan-friendly. Vitamin D2 is always suitable for vegans, but vitamin D3 can be derived from an animal source (such as sheep’s wool) or lichen (a vegan-friendly source). The Vegan Society markets a daily vitamin and mineral supplement designed for vegans called VEG 1, providing reliable intakes of vitamins B12 and D, iodine and selenium.
- Check the public health advice in your country – when do you need to use a vitamin D supplement?
- Vegan supplements contain vitamin D3 from lichen or vitamin D2
Need more information? Read our detailed PDF.
You can compare your diet to our guidelines using the free VNutrition app.
These are general guidelines about nutrition. If you have dietary concerns, please talk to your doctor about seeing a dietitian. Discussing the use of supplements with a health professional will help to ensure that they are suitable for you or your child.
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