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The value of Vitamin D

We don’t get enough Vitamin D because of the weather; however, it is a vitamin we need and a vitamin that might be shielding us against COVID-19. How can we introduce more Vitamin D in our diet?

By Honey Carlier

Vitamin D is also known as the Sunshine Vitamin. Why? Because we get the majority of this valuable vitamin from the sun. You may question whether that makes us the same as plants – do we just need to sit outside all day to get everything we need? Well, not exactly. Although around 15 minutes of exposure can give us our daily dose, some factors affect that. As we are heading into winter, there are fewer daylight hours and naturally less opportunity to get the amount we need.

Why do we need Vitamin D anyway?

Vitamin D is classed as an essential nutrient – meaning we need it to function and stay healthy. Vitamin D is linked to many processes within our body that support our immune system, which is a priority heading into the cold and flu season (remember freshers’ flu, anyone?). It also helps maintain a healthy heart function, influences bone and muscle function, and is even associated with good mental health. As if that is not enough, it has very recently been related to COVID-19 symptoms. Or rather, a deficiency might be linked to more severe symptoms. Sounds like a miracle nutrient, right?

In the latest issue of The Lancet, the link between Covid-19 and Vitamin D was discussed. “It has long been clear that groups that traditionally exhibit vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency, such as older adults and nursing home residents, and Black, Asian, and minority ethnic populations, are the same groups that have also been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” the article said.

“Additionally, increased time spent indoors due to strict lockdowns and shielding triggered concerns that some people might not obtain the necessary physiological levels of vitamin D from sunlight.”

The article concluded that NICE, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, should not be complacent but should “continue to monitor new evidence as it is peer-reviewed and published, including results from several clinical trials on vitamin D and COVID-19 outcomes that are currently underway”.

Where can I find it?

Foods such as oily fish like salmon or tuna, as well as egg yolks contain, Vitamin D naturally. Other sources include mushrooms – some supermarkets even sell specifically Vit D boosted varieties. In addition to these, some products are fortified with Vitamin D. This means they are added to the product during processing. This includes most cereals, plant-based milk, and margarine. When you next go food shopping have a look to see if your usual choices are fortified.

Boosting your diet with some of these foods can really help to contribute to your overall health. Meal ideas don’t have to mean fancy fine dining. It can be quick and easy. Take a basic omelette recipe. Add some chopped mushrooms through the egg mixture, and your choice of oily fish – salmon works well. It’s a great lunch idea packed with Vitamin D and side note- lots of other essential nutrients.

NOTE: With this all being said the current UK recommendation to anyone above the age of 4 is to take supplements of 10ug (micrograms) daily to prevent any deficiencies.