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What are the best sources of vitamin D, and should I take supplements?

Nutritionist, WebMD Medical Expert
American Dietetic Association

The best food sources naturally rich in vitamin D are cod or fish liver oils, salmon, tuna, sardines, mackerel, and shrimp. Vitamin D is also found in egg yolks, beef liver, and mushrooms. Fortified foods -- such as milk, some yogurts, cereals, and orange juices -- also provide vitamin D.

Another option to increase vitamin D levels is to take dietary supplements to fill in the nutritional gaps; however, experts say to be careful.

“Manufacturers are putting more vitamin D in multivitamins and there are some single 5,000 IUs vitamin D supplements that exceed the safe upper limit,” says University of Cincinnati bone health expert Nelson Watts, MD.

“Buy from reputable companies and don’t exceed the safe upper limit unless you are under a physician's care,” says Michael Holick, PhD, MD, author of The Vitamin D Solution and vitamin D researcher. He recommends children take 1,000 IU and teenagers and adults 2,000-3,000 IUs supplements daily.

The Institute of Medicine issued recommendations in 2010 for vitamin D and calcium intake. The IOM did not factor in sunlight exposure, which prompts the body to make vitamin D, because variation in skin color and geographic location affects the process. Nor did the committee make any recommendations regarding supplements.

“Individuals need to discuss supplementation with their health care provider,” says Harvard’s JoAnn Manson, PhD, MD, and member of the IOM vitamin D and calcium committee.

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