It perhaps should come as no surprise to us that, thanks to our British weather, we are not getting enough Vitamin D. A report by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition acknowledged that there are insufficient levels of UVB radiation from sunshine in the winter months to synthesise enough vitamin D in our skin, and are recommending that everyone should consider taking a supplement. One in five adults and one in six children may be deficient, according to Public Health England.
Vitamin D is essential for bone and dental health, but is also now recognised as being key to several biochemical processes in our bodies. A deficiency can be linked to, as well as osteoporosis and rickets, conditions like heart disease, cancer, multiple sclerosis and diabetes. There are also suggestions that it could be beneficial in warding off colds and fighting depression.
The optimum levels of vitamin D are much debated, with some suggesting that UK guidelines are currently too low. The Department of Health currently recommends that pregnant and breastfeeding women, darker-skinned people and people aged 65 and over should take a daily supplement of 10 micrograms (400 International Units). Babies and young children aged six months to five years should be given vitamin D in the form of vitamin drops to help them meet their recommended 7-8.5 micrograms (280-340IU). Some people have suggested that, for adults, an optimal dose would be 50mcg per day, although UK guidelines currently recommend that you take no more than 25mcg daily.
While most other vitamins can be sourced in full from a balanced diet, it is far more difficult with vitamin D, meaning that supplementation may be a valid consideration. Here are five other ways to boost your levels.
Yes, rainy Britain might be responsible for lack of vitamin D, but our lifestyles compound this as we spend more time indoors. Exposing your forearms outdoors for 20-25 minutes can boost your vitamin D levels - even on a cloudy day. In winter, it can be difficult with fewer hours of daylight, fewer UV rays reaching us, and a tendency to cover up and stay indoors. Try to get out of the office at lunchtime for a walk around the block, or encourage the children to do something outdoors every day. Obviously sun safety must still be a priority, so when the sun actually does shine (and in fact, even when it doesn’t) take care to avoid sunburn and use an SPF.
Although it is difficult to get your daily dose of vitamin D from food alone, oily fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel is a great source. A 3-ounce fillet of salmon can supply about 80% of your daily requirement.
Unlike in other countries, here in the UK foods such as milk, bread and grains are not routinely fortified with vitamin D. This is starting to change, though - Marks & Spencer has begun fortifying all its breads with the vitamin, and many spreads and breakfast cereals are also fortified.
Forget the egg-white omelettes - the yolk, along with having many other nutritional benefits, is a source of vitamin D. One egg contains 1mcg of vitamin D, about a tenth of the UK’s recommended dose.
It may not have been the most popular school dinner option, but, rich in protein and iron, a portion of liver also contains about 1.2mcg of vitamin D.
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