Health experts have warned that levels of vitamin D deficiency are the highest in 50 years and that one in five people now have severe deficiencies – causing health conditions including easily broken bones, depression due to low serotonin levels (vitamin D is known as ‘the happiness vitamin’) and even gut issues.
Scientists say that unless you are eating ten micrograms of vitamin D a day, which is equivalent to ten eggs, two and a half cans of tuna or one salmon fillet, that you should take a daily supplement which contains vitamin D to combat the effects of a largely indoor lifestyle and a diet lacking in oily fish, eggs and meat.
Dr Louis Levy, head of nutrition and science at Public Health England, said that a healthy diet and “short bursts” of sunshine would give most people all of the vitamin D they need in spring and summer, but in the winter months supplementing is essential, and that some people ought to consider taking a daily vitamin D supplement all year round:
“However, everyone will need to consider taking a supplement in the autumn and winter if you don’t eat enough foods that naturally contain vitamin D or are fortified with it,” he warns.
“And those who don’t get out in the sun, or always cover their skin when they do, should take a vitamin D supplement throughout the year.”
The problem is that it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone: “Few food sources provide sufficient vitamin D, so sunlight exposure or supplementation is important,” Health Coach and nutrition expert Naomi Buff tells Lumity Life magazine.
“However, low exposure to the sun or exposure exclusively with thick, total sunscreens means that this source of vitamin D can be very low and supplementation is required to provide sufficient vitamin D for all the body’s requirements.
“A lot of people do have a vitamin D deficiency.
“Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin essential for normal growth and development. It is required for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorus to support the necessary hardening of bones. Its role in the absorption of calcium is also key for a healthy neuromuscular system, muscle strength, normal blood clotting and heart function.”
And, we asked Naomi, who is London-based and holds regular workshops and classes how to include more Vitamin D in our diet every day:
She says: “Vitamin D can be found in many foods such as salmon and other oily fish including herring, trout and sardines, all of which are a lean source of protein and benefit from omega 3 fatty acids. You can easily add one of these superfood fish into your weekly dinner rotation.
“To meet your daily requirements and to avoid a vitamin D deficiency you need only one small piece of salmon, while shopping for your fish choose wild over farmed when available.
“Eggs are also a rich source of vitamin D with 2 large eggs providing one-tenth of your daily needs, the vitamin D is however found in the yolk so ensure you consume the whole egg to benefit. Opt for organic free range eggs where possible for maximum nutritional benefit.
“Certain food products that have been fortified with vitamin D are easily available including orange juice, soy milk and cereals however it is alway recommended to include as many natural sources in your diet as possible.
“Canned tuna is also a good source of vitamin D, it is a cheaper than fresh fish, lasts longer and is easy to integrate into your daily diet. You can also find vitamin D in beef liver and certain mushrooms that have been grown under an ultra violet light.”
Experts have told us that 20 minutes of natural sunlight a day will help boost your vitamin D levels.
In central Europe they swear that they can fight off the risk of a vitamin D deficiency by sitting outside at lunchtime for twenty minutes, even if it’s cloudy and cold. That way they get depression-fighting dose of natural light and vitamin D. It’s a great idea if you can manage it as you’re setting aside some fresh air and time away the stresses of your desk in the middle of the day. Why not leave your phone inside for that time as well – giving yourself a mini digital detox?