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The Importance Of Vitamin D And How To Make Sure You’re Getting Enough



The Importance Of Vitamin D And How To Make Sure You’re Getting Enough

All vitamins and minerals are micronutrients – that is, they’re needed in small doses in order to keep us healthy. Unlike the macronutrients, carbohydrates, proteins and fats, that provide energy in the form of calories, the micronutrients do not contain any calorific value. But they’re all important in their own way, each with its own essential role in the functioning of our minds and bodies. 

Why do we need vitamin D?

Vitamin D is most well-known for supporting healthy, strong teeth and bones as well as our muscles. It does this by helping the body absorb two minerals that are important in the manufacture of bone and tooth enamel and muscle fibres – calcium and phosphate. A vitamin D deficiency can lead to weakened, brittle bones and bone deformities including rickets in children. 

But vitamin D is also necessary for good emotional health, helping to regulate the mood and reduce our chances of developing depression and anxiety. A lack of vitamin D is linked to SAD, or seasonal affective disorder, a type of winter depression. 

So it’s clear then, that vitamin D is important for many aspects of our physical and mental health and that getting enough is essential. But it isn’t just a case of making sure we eat enough of the right foods. 

Where do we get vitamin D from?

The vast majority of the vitamins and minerals we need come from the food we eat. Fruits and vegetables are rich sources of micronutrients, as well as wholemeal carbohydrates, cereals, dairy products, lean meat, oily fish and soya products. 

However, vitamin D is different. We only get a minimal amount of vitamin D from food; the majority comes from sunlight. Or rather, the majority of our vitamin D is manufactured by the body when sunlight hits our skin – hence its nickname, the sunshine vitamin. 

Certain foods do contain some vitamin D, and these include oily fish, particularly those with edible bones such as sardines and herrings, but also salmon and mackerel, as well as red meat and egg yolks. Vitamin D is also added to certain foods, such as infant formula milk, cereals, spreads and non-dairy milks. 

However, it’s unlikely we could ever get enough vitamin D from our diet, so spending time outside in the sun is important. 

How to get enough vitamin D

Spending time outside, exposing our skin to sunlight is lovely during the hot summer months. But not so good when it’s cold and wintry. That’s why the NHS recommends that all adults take 10mcg vitamin D supplements each day. 

This is especially important in the winter months, from October to March, when our skin is covered and sunlight hours are low, or if we spend most of our time inside or with our skin covered, all year round. 

So to ensure you’re getting enough, take a daily vitamin D supplement in the autumn and winter, and spend as much time outside as possible in the lighter months (avoiding exposed skin when sunlight is strongest between 11am and 3pm). 

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