Spotlight on Vitamin D

Spotlight on Vitamin D image
Two great sources of Vitamin D were used in the making of our smoothie popsicles for Summer Nutrition Club. Click here for more info. 

Content contributed by Liana Chapman, IUPUI Dietetic Intern

Vitamin D deficiency is quite common across the United states, affecting roughly 50% of our population. Although the body can synthesize this nutrient from sun exposure, it is challenging to get enough sunlight in winter months, especially for people living in northern states like Indiana. This can lead to an increased risk of vitamin D deficiency for these individuals.

Vitamin D’s main function is to make sure that the body has enough calcium and phosphorus. It is also required for joint and muscle health, mood regulation, immunity, and cell growth. Signs and symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include drowsiness, depression, cuts that do not heal, joint or muscle pain, hair loss, bone loss, and decreased immunity.

Certain populations are at higher risk for Vitamin D deficiency. These include vegetarians and vegans, overweight or obese individuals, those who live far from the equator, and those with darker skin tones.

Seniors are also at a higher risk for vitamin D deficiency because the body’s ability to make this nutrient from sunlight decreases with age. With 7.9% of seniors in Indiana facing food insecurity, it is especially important that these clients can access foods that are rich in vitamin D, specifically in the winter months.

The amount of vitamin D needed each day depends on age:

Life Stage

Recommended Amount

Birth to 12 months

400 IU

Children 1-13 years

600 IU

Teens 14-18 years

600 IU

Adults 19-70 years

600 IU

Adults 71 years and older

800 IU

Pregnant and breastfeeding women            

600 IU

Foods provided by Gleaners that can help clients reach their Vitamin D needs include:


Serving Size        

Vitamin D Content

Cooked salmon

3 ounces

447 IU

Canned tuna

3 ounces

154 IU

Fortified orange juice

1 cup

137 IU

Fortified milk

1 cup

115-124 IU

Fortified yogurt

¾ cup

80 IU

Fortified margarine

1 tablespoon

60 IU


1 large

41 IU

Fortified breakfast cereal        

1 cup

40 IU

Other sources of vitamin D include cod liver oil, swordfish, sardines, beef liver, mushrooms, cheese, butter, and dietary supplements. Individuals should talk to their medical provider before taking any dietary supplements.