Vitamin D

Key Facts
  • Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that helps your body absorb and use calcium.
  • You can get vitamin D from the sun, certain foods, and supplements.
  • Children and teens should get at least 600 IU (International Units) of vitamin D every day.
  • Esta guía en Español
  • Young men's version of this guide

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a vitamin that helps your immune system function effectively, reduces inflammation, and helps your body absorb calcium. Calcium is a mineral that gives strength to your bones and teeth, and helps your nerves and muscles function properly.

Why is vitamin D important?

The teenage years are the most important for bone growth and development. If you don’t get enough vitamin D during your teenage years, you may be at risk for osteoporosis when you get older. Osteoporosis is the development of weak bones that, over time, can increase your risk of falling and breaking bones.

How much vitamin D do I need?

Both children and adolescents should get at least 600 IU (International Units), of vitamin D each day. Supplements should be taken with food to improve absorption.

Where can I get vitamin D?

Your body can create vitamin D when it is exposed to sunlight. However, sunscreen blocks your skin’s ability to make vitamin D. Given the risk for skin cancer with sun exposure, using sunscreen is advised. Other ways to get vitamin D are through food or by taking a vitamin D supplement.

The best food sources of vitamin D are fish such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel, mushrooms, egg yolks, and products fortified with vitamin D such as milk, orange juice, and some yogurts. Although it’s best to get vitamins and minerals from food, taking a vitamin is another way to get the right amount. If you do decide to take a multivitamin supplement, check the label on the bottle and make sure one serving provides at least 600 IU of vitamin D.

Can I get too much vitamin D?

You can’t get too much vitamin D from the sun or from eating certain food. However, taking too much vitamin D as a supplement can be harmful. Research studies have shown that the maximum safe amount of vitamin D a teen should get is 4000 IU per day, and the minimum is 600 IU per day. More is not always better! Taking too much vitamin D can result in kidney stones.

Below is a table of some healthy foods that contain vitamin D:

Food Serving IUs Vitamin D
Salmon (cooked) 3.5 ounces 518
Total® Cereal 1/2 cup 182
Fortified Milk 1 cup 48
Fortified Soy Milk 1 cup 44
Fortified Orange Juice 1 cup 42
Raisin Bran® Cereal 1 cup 102
Tuna (canned) 3 ounces 48
Egg (whole) 1 large egg 44
Kellogs® low-fat granola with raisins 2/3 cup 40
Kix® Cereal 1 cup 132

Is vitamin D deficiency (not getting enough) a problem for teens?

Yes. Many teens do not get enough vitamin D.

Am I at risk for Vitamin D deficiency?

Many people are at risk for vitamin D deficiency. Mostly, people living in the north/northeast are at increased risk due to the long winters and lack of sun exposure. Having darker skin also increases one’s risk of having a vitamin D deficiency.  Talk to your health care provider to see if you should get your vitamin D levels checked.