Vitamin D - everything you should know


New vitamin D guidelines: supplements ‘advised for everyone’

Have you been anywhere nice on your holidays this summer?

I hope so, because without regular, safe exposure to sunshine in the summer months, your body may not amass the necessary stores of vitamin D.

We all need vitamin D in order to absorb enough calcium and phosphorus from our diets to maintain strong, healthy bones and teeth. Without it, our bones can become soft and weak. How can you make sure you’re getting enough?

1. Take supplements

New public health advice in England and Wales says everyone should consider taking vitamin D supplements in autumn and winter. The new guidelines come after a report, carried out by the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), suggests everyone over the age of one needs to consume 10 micrograms of vitamin D every day in order to protect bone and muscle health. This may not be achievable through diet alone, say officials, especially when sunshine, essential to the production of vitamin D, is not abundant.

Supplements were previously recommended to pregnant women, children from six months to five years, those over 65 or with darker skin, and anyone who has low or no exposure to the sun by the Department of Health.

2. Get some (safe) sun

The primary way we obtain vitamin D is through our skin’s exposure to UVB rays in sunlight. This needs to be three or more on the UV index, which in these sun-starved northern climes is only likely to occur between the months of April and October. Expose as much unprotected skin as possible to the light, daily, for 10-15 minutes and ideally between 11am and 3pm. The lighter-skinned you are, the quicker you’ll be able to absorb it. Little and often, as long as the sun is strong enough, is really all you need.

3. Supercharge your diet

Top up your intake with sensible food choices (only 10 per cent of the vitamin D we need is found naturally in food). Oily fish, eggs, mushrooms that have been exposed to enough sunlight, and fortified margarines and breakfast cereals are the main dietary sources of vitamin D. It is also present in red meat and cheese.

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