For the first time in a while we have actually had some sun this week and it feels great! So it’s inspired me to write this article on why the sun is so good for us and what we can do to ensure we get enough of it’s essential nutrient, Vitamin D, even on those dreary sunless days.
Vitamin D is critical for good health – not only only is it good for your mood but it is linked to bone and muscle health and has now been linked to reducing your risk of cancer. Plus there has been some recent resecrh that suggests it may also help reduce those Winter sniffles!
Deficiencies in it are now being linked to depression, general lethargy, tiredness and even weight gain. This is especially common in the UK where we spend many months of the year without any sunlight so too many people simply don’t get enough of the “sunshine vitamin” and it is now thought that around 30% of Brits are deficient in the Winter months.
And the other problem is that it’s not in too many foods.
Are supplements the answer?
Here’s the lowdown on this critical, all-too-often deficient vitamin. And three ways you can get enough of it:
- exposure to the sun
- consuming vitamin D containing food
Why is vitamin D important, and how much do we need?
Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium from our food and acts like a hormone to help us build strong bones. Vitamin D can also help with immune function, cellular growth and help to prevent mood imbalances such as depression and seasonal affective disorder.
Not getting enough vitamin D can lead to bone diseases like osteomalacia. Inadequate vitamin D can also increase your risk of heart disease, autoimmune diseases, certain cancers and even death. The “official” minimum amount of vitamin D to strive for each day is merely 400-600 IU. Many experts think that this is not nearly enough for optimal health.
To ensure you get adequate amounts of vitamin D, you can implement any combination of the three vitamin D sources mentioned above on a weekly basis.
How can I get enough vitamin D from the sun?
Your skin makes vitamin D when it’s exposed to the sun; that’s why it’s referred to as the “sunshine vitamin.” How much vitamin D your skin makes depends on many things. Location, season, clouds and clothing; all affect the amount of vitamin D your skin can produce from the sun. One standard recommendation is to get about 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. to the face, arms, legs or back. This should be done without sunscreen, at least twice a week. Of course, we should always avoid sunburn but we know that in some locations (and seasons of the year) it’s not easy to get sun exposure. So, how can we get enough vitamin D in other ways?
How can I get enough vitamin D from food?
Vitamin D is naturally found in fatty, oily fish such as sardines, salmon and mackerel as well as liver and egg yolks. Some mushrooms, like Chestnut, make vitamin D when they’re exposed to the sun.
Some foods are “fortified” (which means vitamin D has been added) with vitamin D. These include fortified milk, some breakfast cereals and yogurts. It will say on the label how much vitamin D has been added per serving.
Because vitamin D is fat-soluble, you can increase absorption of it from your food if you eat it with some fat (healthy fat of course) so take any supplements with a meal. Between sun exposure and food, it still may be difficult to get even the minimum of 400 IU of vitamin D each day; this is why vitamin D supplements are quite popular.
How can I get enough vitamin D from supplements?
It’s easy enough to just “pop a pill” or take some cod liver oil (which also contains vitamin A & D). Either of these can ensure that you get the minimum amount of vitamin D, plus a bit extra, and it is recommended that this supplement is taken from October until March in line with the clocks changing.
But there are big differences between the quality of supplements that you can buy.
NB: Before you take vitamin D containing supplements, make sure you check that it won’t interact with other supplements or medications you may be taking. Always read your labels, and ask a healthcare professional for advice. Do not take more than the suggested dosage on the label of any vitamin D supplement, except under medical care.
The maximum amount recommended (for the general population) is 4,000 IU/day. Too much vitamin D can raise your blood levels of calcium (to an unsafe level), and this can affect your heart and kidneys. Please note that levels for children are lower too.
The best thing, if you’re concerned, is to ask your GP to do a blood test and make a recommendation about how much vitamin in supplement form is right for you. Your GP may recommend higher amounts of vitamin D supplementation for a short time while under their care if they think you are suffering from a deficiency.
Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin which; many people have a hard time maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D. There are three ways to get enough vitamin D: sun exposure, through certain foods, and in supplements.
I’ve given you some ideas how you can get the minimum 400-600 IU or vitamin D daily.
If you’re concerned, it’s best to request a blood test that tests your vitamin D levels to be sure what’s right for you. Always take supplements as directed.
Here are my recommendations for a good quality Vitamin D supplement:
Lily and Loaf are the UK suppliers of an amazing brand of supplements called Natures Sunshine. It’s thoroughly worth calling these guys and setting up an account (you’ll need to state my name as a Practitioner) and then you can order online in the future plus get notifications of good deals (I especially love their kids multivitamin gummy bears)
or this UK company, Biocare, which only use top quality ingredients and ensure their products are not full of dodgy fillers! (and they sell a liquid form if tablets aren’t your thing!) If you register and set up an account with them online and then add Practitioner Referral P7067 at checkout they will give you an extra 10% off 🙂
Now head on into Abby’s Kitchen and check out my salmon or egg recipes to start upping your Vitamin D intake today.