Vitamin D is as important as calcium in determining bone health, and most people don't get enough of it.
Vitamin D has many important jobs in your body. It keeps your bones strong by helping your body absorb calcium and phosphorus, key minerals for bone health. Your muscles use it to move, and nerves need it to carry messages throughout your body.
But many people don't get enough vitamin D. Find out the best ways to get what you need and whether a supplement might be a good idea for you.
How much vitamin D should you get?
The amount you need depends on your age:
600 IU (international units) a day for people ages 1 to 70, including women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
800 IU a day for anyone over 70
Some experts think that these recommendations are too low, especially for people who are more likely to get the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis. Ask your doctor how much vitamin D is best for you.
It is possible to get too much vitamin D. Doses above 4,000 IU a day can be harmful to people ages 9 and older. (Children ages 1 to 8 shouldn't get more than 2,500-3,000 IU.) It's hard to get that much from the food, but it might happen if you take too many vitamin D supplements.
How can you get vitamin D?
Your body makes the nutrient when the sun shines directly on your skin. Just 10 to 15 minutes of sunlight without sunscreen a couple of times a week usually gives you enough vitamin D. But it's also important to protect your skin since too much time under the sun's rays can cause skin cancer. When you're out in the sun for more than a few minutes, it's best to wear sunscreen or clothing that covers you up.