It’s quite likely that many people currently have low vitamin D levels, especially with the extreme weather conditions and snow. But fear not.
This is because it is very hard to get enough vitamin D solely from the diet throughout the winter. Therefore, it is so crucial to optimise your time outside in the forthcoming months- sun lovers rejoice!
In the summer months, typically from late March-end of September, most people get sufficient amounts through sunlight exposure and from their diet. Hence vitamin D is also known as the sunshine vitamin.
What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and a hormone that is needed to control the amount of calcium and phosphate in our body. Vitamin D, as well as calcium, is needed for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
The body is an incredible tool. Vitamin D is synthesised in the skin after exposure to sunlight containing UVB radiation. But how much vitamin D is enough?
With revised levels, the latest RNI (Reference Nutrient Intake) for vitamin D is 10 µg (400 IU) per day, throughout the year. This applies for everyone aged four and above in the UK, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and those at risk of deficiency. To put into context what 10 µg equates to, some examples through diet include egg yolks, which contain 12.6 µg per 100 g, and oily fish (salmon, herring and sardines), which contain between 5-16 μg per 100 g. Other good food sources of Vitamin D include liver and fortified foods such as margarine spreads, yoghurts and some cereals.
Supplementation can be a great way to ensure that you are getting enough vitamin D all year round. Recent advice suggests that supplements can help maintain sufficient levels and a daily supplement of vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) can avoid deficiency or low levels.
However, It is important if you are going to take a vitamin D supplement that it is the D3 form rather than D2 (Ergocalciferol). This is because vitamin D3 is the type of vitamin D your body naturally produces after sunlight exposure and is the main type found in food sources, whereas vitamin D2 is formed in fungi and yeast by UVB exposure of ergosterol.
If you are worried you may be deficient, please seek medical advice from your GP as a simple blood test can indicate your vitamin D level.
Top tips to optimise your vitamin D levels this winter
• Take a daily supplement (Vitamin D3) from October to April
• Eat a diet rich in vitamin D e.g. eggs, oily fish, milk/soya and nut milks (often fortified with vitamin D), mushrooms and tofu