*This article first appeared on VITL.com in February 2015.
In a city like London, we're constantly reminded of the fact that we may not be getting enough of the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D is produced by the body in response to skin being exposed to sunlight, however, thankfully, it also occurs naturally in a few foods.
With vitamin D being essential for strong bones because it helps the body use calcium from the diet, it's a rather shocking statistic to know that 1 in 10 people in the UK are deficient (1).
Importance of vitamin D
There are many health benefits associated with healthy levels of vitamin D in the body, like that it channels calcium into bones and teeth making them strong and healthy, helps to manage atopic reactions, asthma and hayfever, helps to prevent coughs, colds and flu, lowers the risk of developing diabetes and improves your concentration levels. Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to lack of energy and fatigue, female hormone imbalance and fibromyalgia.
What's more, daily intake has recently been increased in the UK from 50 nmol/L to 70nmol/L, and may well be increased again as more evidence emerges to support the role of vitamin D (2).
The main reason for low Vitamin D is that while it can be consumed through some foods, the best way to maintain healthy levels is for it to be made internally from natural exposure. This process occurs in the skin from direct exposure to UVB rays from sunlight. So the further you live from the equator and the less sunlight you are exposed to, the more likely you are to be deficient.
Home remedies for vitamin D deficiency
In the summer time, you can top up your levels with at least 30 minutes a day of sunlight with your face and arms exposed. Finding a balance between the use of sunscreen to protect against ageing and skin disorders and allowing your body to produce enough vitamin D is essential. Even after a very sunny summer, adequate levels will have only lasted us until about early-Autumn, so come Christmas most of us will already be at a suboptimal level for good health.
2. Food sources
You can get vitamin D naturally from a list of food sources – oily fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel, eggs, and fortified foods with added vitamin D. However, many of these are highly processed and so are not generally a healthy choice.
Vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) is produced in the body, which is a much more usable form than the plant form D2, often found in poor quality supplements or plant food sources. For this reason too, the VITL Nutrition team would recommend to supplement with D3, especially during the winter but all year round if you are dark skinned (you need more exposure) or fair skinned (you cannot expose too much as you burn), overweight, work indoors, pregnant or breastfeeding.
Take your vitamin D3 supplement with a meal that contains healthy fats such as olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, oily fish, etc. as vitamin D is fat soluble molecule meaning you need fat to enable absorption. Alternatively, VITL Vitamin D3 is formulated with a small amount of sunflower oil to maximise absorption. Find more information on VITL products here.
Here's to more sunshine (*vitamin)!
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1. University of Cambridge: http://www.cam.ac.uk/research/news/one-in-ten-people-over-forty-years-old-in-britain-are-vitamin-d-deficient
2. National Insitutes of Health: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21872808