Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin
We’ve not had a lot of sunshine lately, so this week’s sunny days are a welcome change. Throughout January the days start to get a little longer (more 40 extra minutes a day by the end of the month, we’re counting!) so it’s great to spend time outside again. Sunshine on our skin helps our body to make vitamin D; it supplies up to 90% of our daily requirement. But between October and March when the days are short, there aren’t enough daylight hours for our body to make what we need.
Our body uses vitamin D to regulate levels of calcium and phosphate important for healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D is also known to have wider health benefits on the immune system. It plays a role in the production of antibodies, reduces inflammation, and may help to accelerate recovery from bacterial and viral diseases, and reduce the likelihood of developing long Covid. Because Vitamin D can reduce inflammation in body cells, it has also been associated with slightly lowering the risk of developing cancer.
So there are lots of good health reason to keep your vitamin D levels topped up.
Go outside and get some daylight and sunshine
30 minutes of midday sun keeps our levels of vitamin D topped up in the warmer months, but during winter the sun isn’t strong enough to have the same effect, so any time outside is a bonus, however brief. When sunshine hits the retina at the back of the eye it boosts our serotonin level, which helps to boost our mood – as little as 15 minutes a day can have a mental health benefit.
How much vitamin D can you take?
We store limited amounts of vitamin D in the body’s fatty tissue, and vitamin D is available through a diet that includes foods high in vitamin D, but to maintain healthy levels during the winter months it’s worth considering taking a supplement.
Vitamin D supplements are sold in units of IU (International Units). One microgram, known as ug, is 1000 times smaller than a milligram. One ug of vitamin is equal to 40IU, so if you choose a supplement of 10ug (micrograms) that will supply 400 IU of vitamin D.
The NHS suggest that 10UG a day will be enough for most people, and no more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful. This applies to adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, and children aged 11 to 17 years. Always seek guidance from a medical professional if you have any concerns.
How to keep your vitamin D levels up during winter
- Spend time outside whenever you can, however briefly. You will still get some benefit to your vitamin D levels and your mood could be enhanced.
- Consider taking a supplement of vitamin D of up to 4000IU and choose an organic supplement to avoid artificial ingredients and fillers.
- Increase your intake of red meat, oily fish, and fortified foods including breakfast cereals to boost your levels of vitamin D.
- Chanterelle mushrooms have naturally high levels of vitamin D – half a cup of can have between 5 – 20 micrograms of vitamin D.
- Milk, eggs, and cheese have good levels of vitamin D.
- Choose organic foods wherever possible to reduce your exposure to glyphosate and other herbicides used in the production of non-organic foods.