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How we get vitamin D

Find out about different sources of vitamin D.

Vitamin D from the sun

The best source of vitamin D is sunlight. Most people can make enough vitamin D from:

  • being in the sun daily for short periods with their arms, hands or lower legs uncovered without sunscreen 
  • April to September, especially between 11am–3pm.

The amount of time people need in the sun to make enough vitamin D is different for every person. If you have:

  • African
  • African-Caribbean
  • south Asian

heritage, you will need to spend longer in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D as someone with lighter skin.

Children under six months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight.

From March to October in the UK, children should:

  • cover up with suitable clothing, including wearing a hat and wraparound sunglasses
  • spend time in the shade (particularly 11am–3pm)
  • wear at least SPF15 sunscreen.

Babies and children under five should be given vitamin D supplements even if they get out in the sun. 

You should avoid sunburn. Cover up with clothing or protect your skin with sunscreen before your skin starts to turn red or burn. Staying in the sun for long periods without protection increases your risk of skin cancer.

You can get tips to help you protect your skin in the sun from Cancer Research UK.

Vitamin D in food

Vitamin D is found naturally in some foods, including oily fish such as: 

  • mackerel

  • sardines

  • salmon 

  • trout.

If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you should eat no more than two portions of oily fish a week, where each portion is 140g.

Other vitamin D food sources include:

  • red meat
  • liver (avoid if you are pregnant)
  • egg yolks
  • fortified foods e.g. breakfast cereals and fat spreads. 

Most people find it difficult to get the recommended amount of vitamin D from just food.

Vitamin D supplements

Children under four and people who are pregnant or recently gave birth should take vitamin D supplements. You can get free vitamin D supplements if you live in the borough.

What might put you at risk of not getting enough vitamin D

You are at higher risk of not getting enough vitamin D if you:

  • aren't often exposed to the sun
  • wear clothes that cover up most of your skin when outdoors
  • are of Asian, African-Caribbean or Middle Eastern descent
  • are overweight.