Vitamin D is one of the essential vitamins we need within our diets to optimise its health benefits for a healthy and happy life.
Most of our vitamin D is made when our skin is exposed to sunlight, giving it the name the sunshine vitamin. Unfortunately, this means that it can be difficult for some people to make enough vitamin D throughout the year and especially in the winter months.
- Why is it so common to have low vitamin D levels?
- What are the health benefits of vitamin D?
- What are the steps we can take to increase our vitamin D levels?
1. Why is it so common to have low vitamin D levels?
Low sunlight levels throughout the winter and low sunlight levels during the summer in some countries (including the UK!) can make it extremely difficult for the body to synthesise enough vitamin D. Modern day lifestyles can also have a dramatic impact as a population we are spending more time indoors due to work and lifestyle choices, this has led to an endemic of low vitamin D levels. In the UK the Department of Health recommend that all adults should take a vitamin D supplement especially over the winter months, it also recommends children and mothers to be, to supplement.
2. What are the health benefits of vitamin D?
Prolonged low vitamin D levels can be detrimental to our overall health and our brain health. One of the major health benefits is that maintaining vitamin D levels can have a positive impact on your future brain health. A study on 2000 people showed that those with low vitamin D levels doubled their chance of getting dementia. This is significant and is another reason why the department of health recommends supplementation.
It is also thought that low vitamin D levels can affect your mood and it might be why in the winter months Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is more prevalent. Another significant health benefit of vitamin D in this case is that it is thought that maintaining your vitamin D levels can help reduce depression symptoms, especially over the winter months.
3. What are the steps we can take to increase our vitamin D levels?
- Increase the amount of fatty fish and seafood in your diet – fatty fish like mackerel and sardines are two common natural foods high in vitamin D
- Eat more mushrooms – essential for a vegan diet as they are the only plant-based source of vitamin D
- Supplement with vitamin D – this is the easiest and most effective way of ensuring you get enough vitamin D in your diet 10mcg a day is usually enough for most people and is usually a must for vegans
- Increase the amount of time you spend outdoors in sunlight hours – vitamin D is synthesised when your skin is exposed to UV-B rays from the sun. Spending more time outdoors can help increase the production of vitamin D by your body.
The health benefits of maintaining vitamin D levels are very clear and the use of vitamin D supplements is backed up by advice from the Department of Health and the NHS. The easiest way to make sure you maintain adequate vitamin D levels to receive its health benefits is through vitamin D supplementation. Other ways to increase vitamin D levels include eating fatty fish/seafood, eating more mushrooms and spending more time outdoors.