Vitamin D is a hot topic in our sun starved Blighty, but why such concern? We spoke to Pixie Turner @PlantbasedPixie about this to find out what’s the fuss all about.
Vitamin D is a group of fat-soluble compounds, the most important ones of which are D2 and D3. Active vitamin D is responsible for increasing intestinal absorption of things like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc. All of these are super important for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles.
As you might therefore expect, vitamin D deficiency can cause bones to become soft and weak. In children it can lead to rickets, whereas in adults it can lead to osteomalacia. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to bone issues, as well as increased risk of viral infections like flu, as vitamin D plays an active role in your immune system.
More recently there has been an emerging link between vitamin D and mood. There is some evidence to suggest vitamin D deficiency is linked to SAD (seasonal affective disorder), particularly as SAD most often strikes at exactly that time of year when it’s almost constantly miserable and dark outside. Beyond this, there may also be a link between vitamin D and depression, and supplementing may actually help with some symptoms. Now obviously I’m not saying vitamin D supplements cure depression, it’s a lot more complicated than that, but it’s a simple step that can be taken to possibly reduce symptoms in some people, and it’s very low-risk too.
Right now you may be tempted to grab those supplements and down the whole thing, However, supplementation only really seems to be useful if you’re already deficient. Granted, a lot of the UK population is deficient in winter. Let me explain why…
There are three main ways to get your vitamin D on: (1) sunlight, (2) food, and (3) supplements.
Exposing your bare skin to sunlight is the simplest way to get vitamin D. Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun hit your skin, which produces a biologically inactive form of vitamin D, which then travels to your liver and kidneys to become activated.
You don’t need to spend hours outside getting tanned – please don’t burn – just around half the time it takes for your skin to start turning pink. The more skin you expose the more vitamin D is produced, but exactly how much also depends on where you live, the colour of your skin, and what time of day it is. Generally, 20-30 minutes is a good minimum for most people.
If you’re sitting inside by a window, even if the sun is shining directly on you, your body won’t be able to make vitamin D, as UVB rays can’t get through the glass.
In the UK in winter, there just aren’t enough hours of sunlight, and the sunlight you do get doesn’t contain enough UVB for you to get your vitamin D needs – not ideal! Which brings us to the next source…
There aren’t a great many foods that are good sources of vitamin D, mainly red meat, egg yolks, or oily fish like salmon, mackerel, and herring. Some mushrooms also contain vitamin D, and you’ll often find non-dairy milks and breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D. Don’t worry about losing the vitamin D when you cook these foods, as around 70-90% of the vitamin is retained after boiling, frying, and baking. But despite all that, unless you’re eating a ridiculous amount of these foods, you’re not really going to get all the vitamin D you need. So that just leaves the third option…
In winter it’s now recommended that everyone in the UK takes a vitamin D supplement. Everyone. “Winter” is loosely meant to be October through to April, but if you’re spending all your daylight hours inside it’s worth considering taking one all year round. A daily supplement of 10 micrograms (10µg or 400 IU) should do the trick! If you’re already taking a multivitamin, it’s also worth checking if it already includes vitamin D as then you don’t need to worry!
OK, thanks Pixie. So on that basis we’re going to get outside as much as possible, take the supplements and keep to that healthy balanced diet!
Team B.fresh x
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