I really enjoy this time of year with lighter nights, sunshine, blue skies and the sound of harmonious birds tweeting away. Recently, I’ve been taking time out to truly pause, connect with nature and immerse myself in glorious sunshine whenever the opportunity arises.
A staggering number of people in the UK are deficient in vitamin D with one of the main reasons being that we are not getting outdoors enough. So, it doesn’t surprise me when I often get asked the question ‘What vitamin D rich foods or supplements could I recommend?’ My immediate response is ‘mother nature has gifted us sunshine and this is the most natural way to synthesise vitamin D through skin exposure’. Just 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight per day between 11am and 3pm plus sufficient intake of vitamin D rich foods may help us meet our vitamin D requirements. However, there are a number of factors that we need to take into consideration to avoid vitamin D deficiency, such as seasons (you obtain virtually no vitamin D from October to March in the UK), the elderly, pregnant, breast-feeding women, vegans, modern housebound living, and those of Black African, African Caribbean or South Asian descent with dark skin.
You probably know vitamin D to be a key nutrient to help our bodies absorb calcium and phosphorus from food for it’s important role for bone health. However, vitamin D also has a wide range of biological actions such as its involvement in insulin secretion – researchers have linked low vitamin D levels to insulin resistance and diabetes. Additionally, the steep rise in allergies has been linked to vitamin D deficiency due to its role within the immune system. The link with depression and low mood is another area of interest as vitamin D receptors have been found in the brain.
Obtaining vitamin D entirely from foods is not so easy as few wholefoods naturally contain vitamin D. The richest source of vitamin D include: oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, fish liver oils, beef liver, egg yolks, butter, sundried mushrooms such as Shitake and Portobello as well as fortified foods. The good news is vitamin D is fat-soluble, so when you get plenty of it, some of it gets stored in your fatty tissues and your liver, enough to carry you into the autumn and winter months.
You can get your vitamin D levels assessed with a simple blood test via your GP or under the care of your health professional.