It’s no secret that vitamin D is something we all need to stay healthy and recently it’s had a lot of press for the role it might play in supporting the immune system against Covid-19.
This said it’s still one of the vitamins people tend to know less about, with vitamins B and C generally receiving the spotlight.
Today, we’re putting vitamin D centre stage, to find out a little more about it.
What is Vitamin D?
A good place to start is to define exactly what vitamin D is.
The body creates vitamin D under the skin when it is exposed to daylight (hence the reason why it’s often referred to as the ‘sunshine vitamin’). Generally speaking, vitamins help our bodies to function well and they’re not something the body creates naturally – except for vitamin D is the exception to this rule, as it’s actually a hormone that we do produce naturally.
We create vitamin D when we’re exposed to daylight and sunlight, though it’s still recommended that our diets are comprised of it too. During the wintertime, the average amount of vitamin D adults should be consuming from food is 25mcg, whilst in the summertime this figure is 20mcg. Interestingly, many experts have recently suggested that we ought to be incorporating more vitamin D into our diets.
17% of adults in the U.K are thought to be deficient in vitamin D and those most susceptible to under-consuming it include those who overuse sunscreen and who do not get enough sun exposure, elderly people, breastfeeding women, and those who are overweight.
Which foods contain vitamin D?
This brings us on to the question of where to find vitamin D in your food. Some of the best sources of vitamin D include:
- Oily fish like sardines, mackerel, and salmon
- Egg yolks
- Red meat
- Fortified cereals
Here’s the bad news. These foods do contain vitamin D, but in very small quantities – the truth is, food simply won’t provide us with the amount of it we require, shining a light on the importance of supplements, in addition to moderated time outside in daylight.
The NHS has recommended that everyone over the age of 5 should be taking a daily supplement of 10mcg, especially during the months between October and March, to make up for the shorter winter days when we do not see as much daylight and therefore, do not reach our RDA of this essential vitamin.
What does vitamin D actually do for our bodies?
We’ve covered the fact that vitamin D is something we all need – but why?
- In combination with calcium, vitamin D helps build strong bones
- Keeps issues like rickets and osteomalacia at bay, in children and adults respectively.
- Helps regulate cell growth
- Improves mood and wellbeing
Quick-fire Vitamin D facts
To conclude, here are a few vitamin D facts to impress your friends!
- M&S have become the first U.K retailer to enrich all packaged bread with vitamin D, a move supported by 78% of shoppers.
- Adding olive oil and butter to foods (for example when you cook vegetables or make a salad), can help the resorption of fat-soluble vitamins, including D, as well as A, E and K.
- Those who live in urban areas are less likely to get vitamin D naturally because of increased levels of pollution and sun-blocking skyscrapers.
- Getting enough vitamin D has may help with the management of skin conditions like psoriasis, as it helps the turnover of skin cells.