The Sunshine Vitamin (And What to Do When There Isn't Any!)

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that helps to protect the health of our teeth and bones. It can even reduce the risk of rickets in children, and osteomalacia (bone pain and tenderness) in adults. However, many of us don’t really know much about Vitamin D, other than it’s commonly known as the ‘sunshine’ vitamin. Our bodies make Vitamin D from exposure to the sun, but believe it or not, this isn’t the only way we’re able to improve our internal Vitamin D stores, and ensure we’re getting enough.

It’s important in the UK that awareness of good sources of Vitamin D is improved. Not only should we be trying to discourage people from spending too much time in the sun, to reduce instances of sunburn and minimise the risk of skin cancer, but we also need to consider that, thanks to the less-than-perfect British weather, there are 6 months of the year that UVB rays are simply not strong enough to enable us to produce Vitamin D. It’s vital that we are familiar with alternative ways to boost our Vitamin D levels.

Natural Food Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is found naturally in a small number of foods – most notably in oily fish, eggs, and red meat. Unfortunately, the typical British diet doesn’t tend to facilitate Vitamin D production, and the average Brit gets around 5 micrograms of Vitamin D from dietary sources – about half the amount they need on a daily basis. To boost Vitamin D, try adding more trout, mushrooms, tofu, and buttermilk to your diet.

Fortified Food Sources of Vitamin D

In an attempt to improve access to good sources of Vitamin D, some foods are now fortified with the nutrient to make it easier for us to get our 10 micrograms per day, as recommended by the NHS. Many spreads and breakfast cereals already contain added Vitamin D, and Marks and Spencer have recently started to fortify their bread products, too. These fortified foods can be a great way to get more Vitamin D.

Supplementary Sources of Vitamin D

Food supplements are also an excellent source of Vitamin D. Most supplements contain 10 micrograms, or 100 percent of your daily recommended allowance. The Department of Health actually recommends taking Vitamin D supplements, especially if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, aged over 65, or if you’re not regularly exposed to the sunshine. It’s hard to get too much Vitamin D – it’s safe up to 25 micrograms per day.

You may have noticed Vitamin D hitting the headlines in the last few years. As we’ve become more aware of the damaging effects of the sun, and as we’re becoming more responsible and using a high factor suncream during the summer months, there have, of course, been concerns that we’re sabotaging our Vitamin D stores. It’s very much a Catch-22 situation. That’s why it’s becoming increasingly important that we understand that it’s not all about the sun, and that there are many more ways that we can ensure we’re getting enough Vitamin D, helping to protect our teeth and bones.