So you want to increase your Vitamin D levels, but are unsure what is the best way to go about it? Food sources of Vitamin D are limited and include canned fish such as salmon, tuna, eggs, or products fortified with Vitamin D such as milk and margarine. Keep in mind that even these sources only offer small amounts and Vitamin D is one of the very few vitamins that you cannot meet your nutritional requirements through your diet alone. In fact, Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun is necessary for the production of Vitamin D in the skin and is the best natural source. So there’s no need to feel blue – all you need to do is head on outside and let your body lap up the Vitamin D from the sun!
UV radiation from the sun is also the main cause of skin cancer so it is still important to be sun smart and avoid excessive exposure. A small amount of sunlight exposure is required most days for adequate Vitamin D, so take a balanced approach to sun exposure to minimise your skin cancer risk.
How Much Vitamin D is Enough Vitamin D?
Finding a happy medium between deficiency and excessive sun exposure shouldn’t be a dilemma. For most Aussies, ~5-10 minutes of daily sunlight exposure of the hands, arms and face in the early morning or late afternoon (when UV index is below 3) in summer and 20-30 minutes per day in winter is adequate.
For people with darker skin or who have their hands, arms, or face covered for most of the day, additional time may be required.
If you do have a Vitamin D deficiency, then you’ll need a short dose of supplementation. Have your levels re-tested after 3 months to ensure your levels are adequate and then remind yourself to expose yourself to a little more sunshine each day.
But What Does Vitamin D Do?
Maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels is important to help manage a range of health conditions. Let’s discuss my top three reasons why preventing Vitamin D deficiency should be one of your top priorities:
1. Maintain Healthy Bones
Vitamin D assists the absorption of calcium needed for healthy bones. Without adequate amounts calcium is leached out of your bone stores increasing your osteoporosis risk. People with Vitamin D deficiency are at greater risk of falls and fractures not only due to weaker bones, but also because they generally have reduced balance, coordination and muscle function.
2. Strengthen Your Immune System
Vitamin D receptors are found on the majority of your immune cells and play a role in their function and signalling to help you to fight off nasties and keep you feeling your best. Vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased autoimmunity, where your immune system attacks your own body, as well as an increased susceptibility to infection such as respiratory tract infections.
3. Keep Your Mind Resilient
Researchers are now discovering a link between Vitamin D and mental health. Vitamin D receptors are found in areas of the brain that control mood and may play an important role in the development and treatment of mood disorders. Although its actual mechanisms is not fully understood, it’s believed that adequate Vitamin D can potentially prevent or minimise symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.
Get some outdoor time to boost your Vitamin D levels naturally and keep your body and mind strong. If you’re concerned about your Vitamin D levels a simple blood test can determine your level. Seek advice from your doctor or local Accredited Practising Dietitian for more information.