We get most of our vitamin D from the action of the sunlight on our skin but in the winter months the sun simply isn’t strong enough to facilitate production and most people have lower than ideal levels by early spring. Also in these modern times many of us spend long hours inside houses and offices, in our cars, going shopping and in all generally just staying out of the sun. Thus our exposure is limited.
Vitamin D is best known for its role in building healthy bones (severe deficiency causes rickets) but nearly every cell in the body has a receptor for it, and there is a growing interest in its role in protecting against conditions including diabetes and some cancers. It is also well-known that vitamin D stimulates the absorption of calcium.
A vitamin is a compound the human body cannot manufacture, thus perhaps we should consider supplementation. This is particularly important in the under 5’s (unless they are on fortified milks) pregnant and breast-feeding women, and the elderly, but it is suggested that everyone should consider a supplement during the autumn and winter months. Your GP can do a test but it’s a safe bet that your levels will fall below ideal at some stage this winter, so why not just take a supplement?
Dietary Solutions for Vitamin A Deficiency
There are many sites available on-line but often they are confusing. I have found that at times many supplements are heavily advertised, simply to make money for the drug company offering them. Indeed at times I wonder how much pressure GP’s are under to promote such supplements. So leaving this aside let’s look at some of the foods (in no particular order) where we may find vitamin D.
Sardines (that I love) are the best of foods that contain vitamin D and one small can of sardines will provide you with about 70% of your daily needs.
Of course I worry about over-fishing and have written to my MP about this, but we will need for the time being to leave this to our peers and hope that they will have the common-sense to preserve the fish that we so dearly need. Saying this, my favourite lunch is to grate a couple of carrots onto a plate. Drizzle some freshly prepared orange juice over the carrots. Add a can of sardines and a few cherry tomatoes. Yum!!
Eggs contain vitamin D in small amounts andeating one egg will provide about10% of your daily needs. I don’t need to tell you that free-range are best. Indeed I buy my eggs from a shop in my town that sources them from a local farm. I have driven past the farm and can see the hens out in the fields every day. So I am content that I am eating decently produced eggs.
Herring (coated in eggs and oatmeal and gently fried in a little olive oil in my non-stick pan) are a favourite. I don’t have the figure for the vitamin D content, but they are nutritious and contain all sorts of good things such as calcium and long-chain Omega 3 oils that are important to us.
Cod Liver Oil is something that I hated as a child. Yet I can remember my mother forcing me to take a tablespoonful every day when I was little. It’s a bit like herring in that it has high vitamin D content while also containing the very important Omega 3 oil. I have read some claims that it will help keep our bones strong and healthy and prevent us from osteoporosis and improve the function of our nervous system. Accepting also that a tablespoon a day gives me all of the vitamin D that I need, this is my choice every day during the winter.
By trying to increase your intake of the aforementioned foods, you are taking a step forward to reducing the symptoms and problems that are caused by insufficient intake of the important vitamin, vitamin D.
Image credits: Kriss Szkurlatowsk, A. Laczek