Known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is an essential nutrient that we all need for optimal health. 

According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, vitamin D is particularly important for immune system function, and it helps to keep a person’s muscles, bones, and nerves healthy. 

Even though vitamin D is made in our skin when we’re exposed to sunlight, it’s one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in the world. Nearly 40 percent of the adult population in the US has a vitamin D deficiency

Although some people can get enough vitamin D from sun exposure alone, others may need to take extra steps such as making lifestyle changes or take supplements to get enough vitamin D. 

If you think you might be deficient in vitamin D, have a look below to learn how much vitamin D you should be taking. 

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that functions like a steroid hormone in the body. When the body processes vitamin D, it becomes a hormone called calcitriol, which helps the body absorb calcium. 

Although certain foods contain vitamin D, the Office of Dietary Supplements reports that it’s difficult to obtain sufficient vitamin D from natural food sources alone.

How much vitamin D should you take?

If you’re not getting enough vitamin D from sun exposure, then taking supplements is one other way to increase vitamin D in your body, other than consuming certain foods. 

The amount of sun exposure, in addition to other factors such as age, race, season, and more, dictate how much vitamin D you need. 

Assuming a person gets minimal sun exposure, the National Institute of Health recommends the below dietary intake to maintain a healthy amount of vitamin D in the body. The recommended dietary intake is in IU, which is International Units.

0 - 12 months: 400 IU 
1 - 70 years: 600 IU 
70 years and above: 800 IU 

Adults with vitamin D levels below 30 ng/mL, should be getting an increased dietary intake of 1,500 - 2,000 IU to maintain healthy levels of vitamin D, according to the Endocrine Society. 

Vitamin D supplements can be purchased online or at a health food store. You can also get them from your doctor. 

They can be consumed in a softgel, tablet, capsule, or powder formula. Before you purchase a vitamin D supplement, make sure the brand you’re buying from uses a reputable tablet, capsule, powder, or softgel manufacturer who produces quality products. 

No matter whether you have an individual health insurance plan or a group health insurance plan, your insurance provider can recommend a list of physicians in your network who can further guide you on how much vitamin D you should be getting if you’re concerned about your vitamin D levels and you don’t already have a regular physician 

Natural sources of vitamin D

If you’d like to supplement your dietary intake of vitamin D, The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends consuming the following foods:

Beef liver 
Egg yolks

Also, fortified foods such as milk, plant-based milk alternatives such as soy milk, and some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine, and soy beverages provide vitamin D.

Bottom line

Vitamin D deficiencies are common. In certain cases, they can cause severe health issues, so making sure you get your recommended dietary intake is important. The good news is that correcting a vitamin D deficiency is easy and affordable, and can offer enormous health benefits.