How to Get Vitamin D in the Winter

Everyone needs Vitamin D...but how do we get it in the middle of winter in Canada?


Statistics Canada survey found that two-thirds of the population of Canada has vitamin D levels below the amount associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases. It also stated that low levels of the vitamin were a “worldwide problem”.

During the summer in Canada and other northern areas of the world, when sun exposure is high, the body converts sunlight into vitamin D. From fall through the long, seemingly unending Canadian winter and into spring, it is much more difficult for the body to do this, because of the lower amount of sunlight and the strength of the sun in these areas at those times. Even if you spend tons of time outside skiing, snowshoeing and shovelling, you should still supplement your ‘D (unless you can head south every weekend!)…and we have 9 ways to do it.

1. Krill Oil



Krill oil is made from krill, which are small, bottom-of-the-food-chain shellfish from the Antarctic ocean. Because they are at the bottom of the food chain, they have none of the contaminants or toxins which can make their way into fish. Krill is a dietary supplement and a reliable source of vitamin D (and bonus! I contains omega 3 fatty acids). 

The krill fishery is one of the most governed fisheries in the world. Between 420 million and 700 million metric tons of krill inhabit the Antarctic waters, making it one of the largest biomasses in the world. Only 0.06% of the total krill biomass is harvested annually.

Oceano3 Krill Oil Softgels: $40 for 30 1000mg softgels, available at


2. Egg Yolks


Eggs are a convenient and delicious way to get more vitamin D. They’re in many breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert recipes. Since the vitamin D in an egg comes from its yolk, it’s important to use the whole egg—not just the whites. But don’t eat a dozen eggs just to get your ‘D, your body needs other foods as well. Duck eggs are higher in vitamin D, but more difficult to find. 

3. Fish

Photo by: Karoline via flickr

Fresh, fatty fish is an excellent source of vitamin D and common options include salmon, trout, mackerel, tuna, and eel.  And you get a bonus—a dose of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

Canned tuna fish and canned sardines both contain vitamin D, and are usually less expensive than fresh fish. Plus, a longer shelf life makes the canned products easy to stock up on and use at your leisure. Canned light tuna has the most vitamin D—about 150 IUs per 4 ounces—while canned albacore tuna has about 50 IUs per 4 ounces, and canned sardines have a little more than 40 IUs per two sardines.

4. Fortified Milk


According to Canada’s Food and Drugs Act, cow’s milk is fortified with 88 to 117 IU of vitamin D3 per 250 mL. Current regulations do not allow yogurt and cheese to be fortified with vitamin D, but certain brands of yogurt are made with fortified milk and contain a certain amount of vitamin D.

Some soy and rice milks are fortified with about the same amount, but check the label since not all contain vitamin D.

5. Mushrooms


Mushrooms exposed to the sun can provide as much vitamin D as some supplements. Take the fungi out of their bag and leave them outside in sunlight for 30 minutes before eating. Much like our skin, mushrooms transform UV light into vitamin d and will do so even after they have been harvested. Remember that in the winter the vitamin D absorption is lower so this method will add a very small amount of D to your diet at best. 

6. Cod liver oil


While in the past it wasn’t the most pleasant-tasting way to get vitamin D, cod liver oil is now often flavoured with mint or citrus, and also comes in capsule form. One tablespoon contains about 1,300 IUs of vitamin D.

Carlson Norwegian Cod Liver Oil, $28 for 250 mL and Jamieson Cod Liver Oil, $8.50 for 100 capsules. Both available at


7. Pork Ribs


Pork ribs (those delicious wee meat-sicles), are rich in vitamin D (yay!), so don’t hesitate to suggest ribs instead of wings the next time you host a BBQ or cards night. They’re scrumptious (and a little addictive too, to be honest). They are also rich in the B vitamins, including thiamin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, niacin and riboflavin.


8. Ultraviolet Lamps


People at high risk of vitamin D deficiency may resort to UV-emitting lamps and bulbs. This includes people unable to absorb the vitamin (malabsorption) or those who can’t get enough in winter months. Similar to tanning beds, but smaller, these lamps carry the same skin-cancer risks and need for protective eyewear, so they’re best to use with a doctor’s recommendation.


9. Vitamin D Supplements


Available in capsule, pill or liquid format, vitamin d supplements are an ideal and simple way to get enough vitamin d into everyone during the darker months of the year. Check with your doctor about the best amount for you and your family because taking too much in supplement form can be toxic, depending on the person.





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