Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin as it’s produced by the body when exposed to sunlight from March until the end of September in the northern hemisphere. But, when winter kicks in, vitamin D from the sun is in short supply, causing as many as one-in-five people to become deficient.
Vitamin D deficiency isn’t good news for the body. This vital vitamin is needed to help absorb calcium to support strong bones, but it also plays a role in boosting the immune, nervous and circulatory systems, and may even curb illnesses such as depression, diabetes and cancer.
With sunlight being the most abundant source of the vitamin, here are some tips to boost levels during the colder months of the year.
Fill up on fish
One of the best sources of vitamin D in foods is fatty fish and seafood. In particular, salmon can provide about half of your daily requirements. Tuna, sardines and mackerel are also worthy sources of this nutrient. Experts claim that when choosing fish, be aware that vitamin D levels can vary. For instance, farmed salmon is thought to contain only 25% of the levels compared to wild salmon.
If you’re a vegetarian, you can get a vitamin D boost by adding mushrooms to your diet. Like humans, mushrooms are capable of making the vitamin in their skin when exposed to sunlight. Some varieties are better performers than others, with wild types coming out on top. Wild maitake mushrooms, for example, are said to boast 300% of your daily recommended levels.
Include eggs in your diet and the yolk, in particular, will keep your levels topped up. But only choose free-range varieties where the hens have had exposure to sunlight. Free-range eggs deliver 20% of your daily needs, compared to just 2-5% for those hens reared in barns.
For convenience, many foods are fortified with vitamin D, so check labels when you go shopping. Milk, orange juice, cereals and yoghurt are just some of the examples where this nutrient has been fortified. Bear in mind, however, that how much has been added, or even if it’s included at all, can vary from one brand of product to another.
If you drink plant-based milk, check the ingredients list to make sure vitamin D is present. Both soya milk and almond milk contain useful amounts of this vitamin, with one cup of the latter providing a fifth of your daily requirements.
Consider adding ricotta cheese to your diet to stock up on your vitamin D levels. Studies have found that this type of cheese contains over five times more of it compared to other kinds of cheeses.
As well as being rich in protein, tofu can give you a useful vitamin D hit. Silken tofu, in particular, is high in this vitamin, providing you with a fifth of your daily needs.
The Department of Health recommends that some people who are at risk of not getting enough vitamin D should take supplements. In fact, medical chiefs now profess that adults and youngsters over the age of one should consider taking a 10-microgram supplement during the winter. This is because it is not easy to obtain sufficient levels of this vitamin during the winter from food alone. However, speak to your GP first before taking supplements.