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How to get vitamin D without risking excessive sun exposure

Vitamin D facilitates calcium absorption, mineralization of bones, and growth in your body along with various immune, nervous, digestive, and circulatory functions. The daily recommended vitamin D intake is 600-800 IU for adults. Even in the sunniest areas, vitamin D is the most lacking nutrient and stretches across all ethnic groups and ages. Vitamin D deficiency symptoms are associated with joint pain, and fatigue. Although sunshine triggers the production of vitamin D in your skin, too much exposure comes with risks in the body including sunburns, eye damage, heat stroke, skin cancer, and skin aging.

You can use sunscreen to protect your skin against cancer and sunburn. Sunscreen contains chemicals that absorb, reflect, or scatter sunlight. To avoid the risk factors associated with sun exposure, one can, alternatively, achieve their daily recommended vitamin D intake from diets and supplements. There are several powerhouses for vitamin D rather than sunshine exposure. Food and supplements rich in vitamin D include:


Salmon is a great source of vitamin D with about 3.5 ounces (100 gram) serving of salmon has approximately 526 IU of vitamin D which is 66% DV.

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Salmon has a big boost in vitamin D content whether farmed or wild. Vitamin D-3 concentration in 8 different fish products ranges from about 5-356 ug| kg. The fish liver has the highest vitamin D content of up to 1200 ug | kg.

Soy milk

Vitamin D is exclusively found in animal products. Therefore, vegans and vegetarians get this vital nutrient from plant-based substitutes like soy milk fortified with vitamin D and other essential nutrients found in cow milk. One cup of soy milk contains 100-119 IU of vitamin D (237ml), which is 13-15% of the DV.

Cereals and oatmeal

One cup of fortified wheat bran flakes has about 145 IU of vitamin D, which is equivalent to 18% of the daily value while a cup of fortified rice cereals contains 85 IU of vitamin D which is equivalent to 11% of the daily value. It is recommended to check the label to find out the content as not all cereals will contain vitamin D.

Beef liver

Beef liver is a natural source of vitamin D. 2.5 ounces of beef liver per serving contains about 36 IU per serving with a significant amount of essential amino acids and minerals. It has low calories compared to other meat like sirloin steaks and high cholesterol.


Vitamin D is particularly contained in the yolk. The content value for the whole egg is about 14.4-29.3 ug | kg and 32.5-55.8 ug| kg.

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Vitamin D in eggs can be increased by supplementing chicken feed with adequate levels of vitamin D-3.


Mushrooms contain a significant amount of vitamin D2 and less amount of D3 and D4 due to their exposure to the high amount of ultraviolet light from the sun. They are the only non-animal food product containing all the vitamin D naturally. Although D2 levels in UV-exposed mushrooms may decrease due to cooking and storage, when consumed before the ‘best-before date’, vitamin D will remain above 10ug |100 grams fresh weight. This amount is similar to the daily recommended vitamin D intake internationally. Consider adding mushrooms to your diet as an alternative source of vitamin D.

Orange juice

8 ounces of fortified orange juice has about 15% of the daily recommended value. Fortified foods have the availability of vitamin D, consider adding fortified orange juice to your diet. It also contains calcium. Typically, about 350 mg per serving which is a daily need for pregnant women. Vitamin D present in fortified orange juice is similar to that of milk and is effective in maintaining vitamin D in adults.

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There are two types of vitamin D in supplements, D2 also called ergocalciferol, and D3 known as cholecalciferol. All are effective but D3 is more effective at a high amount. Manufacturers mainly use yeast to produce D2 and various sources to produce D3. These sources include lanolin, a product from sheep wool, and algae oil. Individuals who need a higher amount of vitamin D should consider supplements such as cod liver oil to hit their daily recommendation. One tablespoon of the cod liver (14g) has three times more than the daily recommended amount.

Nutritionists believe that food should be your first option to attain your vitamin D intake then supplements for reinforcement. Some people need more vitamin D than the average recommended, ranging from about 800-2,000 IU. Dosage beyond 2,000 IU of vitamin D could be toxic with severe side effects such as changes to mental functioning, nausea, and excess calcium in your kidney and blood.

Word Health Organization and Department of Health and Human Services found UV as a human carcinogen with studies linking it to about 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancer and about 86 % of melanomas, accompanied by premature skin aging, and eyelid cancer. Unprotected sun exposure put you at risk of numerous permanent skin damage, and disfiguring can lead to death. You should have an annual blood checkup to determine the levels of vitamin D in your body and here is what your numbers mean:

Below 30: means you are deficient. Ask your physician about supplements.

30 to 50: it generally indicates that your vitamin D is inadequate for your bones and overall body health

Above 50: Adequate vitamin D but more is not necessarily good for your health

125 and above: too high amountsof vitamin D and may have advanced effects on your body.


You should take not more than 10-15 minutes of sun exposure to the legs, abdomen, arms, and back, two to three times a week together with good sun protection. The minor exposure produces all essential vitamin D the body can muster afterward your body disposes of the vitamin D to minimize overload of the vitamin. Without protection, even less than 10-15 minutes of sun exposure is enough to damage your DNA.

Every bit of this damage increases throughout your lifetime producing more genetic mutations which increase the risks of skin cancer. Therefore, to minimize the risks of sun exposure that may be accompanied by various health effects, it is recommended to get your vitamin D from diet and supplements. You should consult your physician before starting any level of vitamin D supplementation.

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