Through research it is becoming clear that Vitamin D is beneficial to health in a multitude of ways — from improving mood to ensuring good dental health. From April to the end of September, most people can get their recommended daily vitamin D intake from direct sunlight converted to vitamin D3 - the biologically active form - in the skin. However, as the days become shorter between October and the March, we often don’t get as much of the vitamin as we should. So, what can you do to keep your intake of vitamin D sufficient? Together with Dobies, retailers of autumn flowering bulbs, we provide some suggestions.
The Importance of Vitamin D
An adequate intake of vitamin D is vital for good health. Not only does it provide us with its own benefits, it enhances absorption of other vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and phosphate.
Due to biological individuality, there are some people who are more prone to vitamin D deficiency than others. For example, people with darker skin tend to have lower levels of the vitamin as their skin pigmentation acts as a natural sunscreen. People over the age of 50 also produce less vitamin D as their skin becomes less efficient at converting sunlight into the vitamin. Finally, overweight and obese people are more susceptible to deficiency as vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it ends up being stored in body fat rather than circulating in the blood - and does therefore not benefit the body.
If you’re struggling to lose weight, consider upping your vitamin D intake as it has been found to reduce the production of new fat cells; thus there is less fat accumulation and the vitamin D can do its many vital jobs throughout the body. This aside, vitamin D has also been linked to better skin, higher brain function, bone health and dental improvements.
This vitamin (which is actually chemically closer to a hormone) has been found to fight off depression too as it is associated with higher serotonin levels, this is often why we feel happier in the sunshine. When it comes to the dreaded flu, vitamin D has been found to reduce your risk of the illness by up to 50%.
Deficiencies of vitamin D have been linked to osteoporosis, rickets, heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Currently, it is recommended that adults should take no more than 25 micrograms per day, but some experts claim that this is too low. Too much vitamin D however, can cause a build-up of calcium in your blood which can lead to poor appetite, nausea and vomiting.
Adjustments to Your Diet
There are some simple adjustments that you can make to your diet to improve your vitamin D intake.
Oily fish, perhaps best known as a source of omega-3 fatty acids, is also high in vitamin D and is a good way to incorporate more of it in your diet. Examples of oily fish include salmon, trout, mackerel, sardines and tuna. These can easily be included in your daily meal at breakfast, lunch or dinner. Tinned tuna is great for salads and pasta dishes, and a glazed salmon fillet is the perfect accompaniment to vegetables for an evening meal. Including red meat such as pork, lamb and beef into your diet can also help to increase your vitamin D intake.
Vegetarians will obviously have to look elsewhere to obtain adequate vitamin D through their diet - unless of course, they are pescatarian. Egg yolks are an alternative way to gain vitamin D, and these are easy to incorporate into a breakfast or lunch time meal. For vegans, mushrooms and almond milk are both good sources of vitamin D.
Maintaining a balanced diet is key, don’t eat red meat every day to get your vitamin D intake, but alternate it with other recommended foods - especially plant sources - instead.
What Else Can You Do?
In addition to making changes to your diet, there are other things that you can do to boost your vitamin D intake. In supermarkets and pharmacies there are nutritional supplements widely available (look for 25mcg of vitamin D3). Multi-vitamin tablets are also a good way to maintain vitamin D levels - and keep all of your vitamin levels within healthy ranges.
As mentioned above, sunshine is a great source of vitamin D for the body. Experts advise that exposing your forearms outdoors for 20-25 minutes each day (without sunscreen) can boost levels by just the right amount. Try to get out of the office at lunchtime and absorb some natural light. Or perhaps do some gardening at the weekend. Despite the colder weather, there is still plenty to do in the garden — exposing you to some sunlight. Outdoor sports and hobbies are a great way to obtain vitamin D without even going out of your way.
Fortified foods are available in some supermarkets too. Check labels and dietary information to find out which foods have added vitamin D.