There’s been a lot in the news recently about Vitamin D deficiency. In fact whilst we were away visiting my sister in sunny California last week and getting our winter vitamin D fix, it was Vitamin D Awareness Week – ironic.
In the UK we apparently don’t get enough vitamin D because we don’t get enough sun! Well I for one had a beautiful English Summer and sapped up all the Vitamin D I needed just from 15 minutes a day of sun exposure and enjoyed every minute of it.
What I really think the problem is that in the UK we don’t get enough TIME in the Sun. We’re a nation of desk addicts that rarely take a lunch break as opposed to other Europeans who regularly take time off during daylight hours for leisurely lunches and siestas.
Our children have a more indoors lifestyle thanks to too much homework, TV, computers and video games as well as a fear of letting them play on the streets as I used to do as a child.
To top it off, skin cancer awareness has been heightened in recent years and sun screen is liberally applied at any sign of a small ray of sun for fear of burning. I witnessed this over the Summer at Melissa’s nursery where factor 50 was slapped on at every opportunity for an outside play.
Yet just 15 minutes a day of decent sunlight (between the hours of 11 and 3pm) is all you need to get enough vitamin D! And unlike other nutrients it’s free this way; no need for expensive supplements or modified diets.
What is Vitamin D?
Unlike other nutrients, vitamin D isn’t really a vitamin at all; it’s a hormone, made by your body as you are exposed to sunlight. Its relationship to bone metabolism is more complicated than you might guess as it acts to increase calcium in the blood stream by increasing your ability to absorb calcium from foods and by reducing the amount of calcium you lose in urine.
So sadly, if you don’t have enough Vitamin D in your body, then all the milk and cheese in the world won’t give you strong bones.
How to maximise your vitamin D!
1) Get some SUN!
Expose yourself to 10-15 minutes of sun every day in the UK from April to October before applying sunscreen. If you have dark skin you may need longer.
10% of your vitamin D intake comes from the food you eat. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so you need to eat fat to get it – so let go of your fat phobia. Fat is good for you as long as it’s the natural kind (none of these man-made margarines – that’s a whole another blog post). Oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, salmon and tuna, egg yolks and real butter are best; other types of dairy don’t contain significant amounts of vitamin D unless they’ve been fortified, and in the UK we don’t fortify milk.
Okay, let’s say you’re wrinkle and fat phobic, pregnant or breastfeeding and want to boost your Vitamin D levels. Well there are plenty of supplements on the market for you to pick from. My favourite is Biocare Vitasorb D which comes in liquid drop form which makes it easy to give to kids and absorption rates are good.
4) Free supplements
Pregnant women and children aged five or under who qualify for the Healthy Start scheme can get free supplements containing vitamin D.
Find out what the NHS say about who should take vitamin D supplements and how much to take.
I’d love to hear your views on Vitamin D supplementation or getting it from the sun. Please leave comments below.