Did You Know There Is Vitamin D in Milk?

Why Vitamin D in Milk Is a Good Choice

For Americans who live north of the 34th parallel (from Los Angeles to Phoenix and Birmingham, Ala. to Columbia, S.C.) it is difficult to get their vitamin D sources from sunlight 365 days a year, because the sun is not strong enough from October to May. And, when you wear sunscreen, it prevents the body from making vitamin D. Regardless of the season, does spending time outdoors solve a vitamin D deficiency? Not necessarily.

Americans should also aim to get the sunshine vitamin from foods high in vitamin D. It’s important for many Americans to get more vitamin D sources in their diets. Vitamin D, as well calcium, potassium and fiber, are four nutrients many Americans – including children — fall short of in their diets as outlined by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Nutrition experts describe these four nutrients as “nutrients of public health concern” because many Americans are not consuming enough and not getting enough of these nutrients is linked to health concerns.

And drinking milk is a great way to increase your intake of two of the four of these important nutrients. In fact, milk is the top food source of vitamin D in the American diet. According to a research study that analyzes NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Survey) nutrition data, Americans get nearly half (42.6%) of their vitamin D from milk.

Read more: 3 Things You Didn’t Know About Real Dairy Milk

What Are the Most Popular Vitamin D Sources?

Direct sunlight on the skin triggers the body’s ability to make vitamin D. When it’s not possible to get enough of the “sunshine vitamin” from the sun, people need to get their vitamin D sources from food.

According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, people should aim to get most of the nutrients in their diet from food, And since vitamin D is naturally present in very few foods, this advice can be difficult for this nutrient.  Milk is fortified to be an good source of vitamin D. It’s also a great way to add 8 other essential nutrients, including 8 grams of high-quality protein. Find out more about how and why vitamin D is added to milk.

What Are the Benefits of Vitamin D?

Vitamin D works in concert with calcium to help build and maintain strong bones. Getting enough vitamin D helps to protect children from rickets and older adults from osteoporosis.

Vitamin D is important to the body in many other ways as well. Muscles need it to move, for example, and nerves need it to carry messages between the brain and every body part. In addition, a growing body of evidence supports the potential benefits of vitamin D. For example, it may help to reduce the risks of high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, according to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Report (part D, chapter 1, page 14).

Understanding the Recommended Vitamin D Levels

The only way to measure vitamin D levels is to have a blood test, either at a doctor’s office or a laboratory. How much vitamin D you need every day depends on your age. Average daily recommended amounts from the Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine (a national group of experts) for different ages are listed below in International Units (IU):


Life Stage

Recommended Amount

Birth to 12 months

10 mcg

Children 1-3 years

15 mcg

Children 4–13 years

20 mcg

Teens 14–18 years

20 mcg

Adults 19–70 years

20 mcg

Adults 71 years and older

20 mcg

Pregnant and breastfeeding women

15 mcg


Milk and 5 Other Foods That Provide Vitamin D

Want to increase your intake of vitamin D? Adding foods high in vitamin D to your diet is a natural way to up your intake.  When you add an 8-ounce glass of milk at mealtimes, you are drinking the top food source of vitamin D in the American diet.

How much vitamin D is in milk? In every 8-ounce serving of milk, you can get 15 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin D. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommend three daily servings of lowfat and fat free dairy products. If you drink three cups of milk each day, you can get 90 percent of your daily vitamin D requirements from milk.

Milk has as much vitamin D as these five other foods:

  1. 3/4 ounce of salmon
  2. 1.5 ounces of canned tuna (packed in oil)  
  3. 5 sardines
  4. 3.5 slices braised Beef liver
  5. 3 large eggs

There are many more reasons to drink all types of dairy milk. Whether it’s lowfat, organic or flavored, all types of dairy milk are an excellent source of vitamin D and provides other essential nutrients including: B vitamins for energy, high-quality protein for lean muscle, vitamin A for a healthy immune system and four bone-building nutrients, including calcium and phosphorus.

Read more: 9 Milk Nutrition Facts You Need To Know

Do You Know How Much Vitamin D Is in Milk?

Do you know how much vitamin D is in milk? Before 1933, there wasn’t much. To address a potential health crisis, three prominent U.S. advisory groups — the American Medical Association, the Council on Food and Nutrition and the National Committee on Food and Nutrition — recommended milk producers add vitamin D to milk to help combat rickets, which is caused by vitamin D deficiency.

In response to the health crisis, milk producers instituted new measures to fortify milk with nutrients. This practice added vitamins A and D to milk prior to homogenizing (mixing) and pasteurizing (heating to destroy harmful bacteria) steps to ready milk for the consumer. Since the 1930s, the standard is to fortify all milk to provide 15 percent of daily value of vitamin D in every 8-ounce glass. This is how much vitamin D is in milk to this day.

Read more: Learn how milk travels from a local farm to your family’s table.