What’s the story with Vitamin D and why do we need it in our lives?
Over the past couple of months, there have been many discussions as to why certain people have been more susceptible to catching the recent coronavirus than others. Among those put forward, was a deficiency of Vitamin D. So, why is Vitamin D important and where can we find it in our diets?
Why do we need vitamin D?
One of the reasons a Vitamin D deficiency was suggested is that it can help defend our bodies against colds and flus. Although it has not been scientifically proven, it is also believed that the vitamin can help boost the immune system. One fact that is unquestioned among scientists is that Vitamin D is important for healthy bones, teeth and muscles.
Vitamin D in your diet?
Most of us will get the majority of our Vitamin D, necessary to maintain a healthy immune system, from natural sunlight. For those who may not get enough sunlight and therefore need a boost to their Vitamin D intake, here are some foods sources that can help maintain a healthy balance:
Oily fish contain substantial amounts of Vitamin D, with Salmon amongst the most popular. Wild salmon contains higher levels of the vitamin, with one serving accounting for your daily allowance (approx 800 IU). Farmed salmon contains 250 IU per serving – approximately 1/3rd of the daily allowance.
Most oily fish, such as Sardines, Herrings, canned Tuna have healthy amounts of Vitamin D which will help you reach your daily allowance.
Like humans, mushrooms synthesize Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Mushrooms produce Vitamin D2, with wild mushrooms containing up to three times the daily allowance for a 100 gram serving.
For those who don’t eat fish or mushrooms, eggs are a wonderful source of Vitamin D. While most of the protein in an egg is found in the white, the fat, vitamins, and minerals are found mostly in the yolk.
The amount of Vitamin D in an egg yolk will depend on the exposure of sun and content in the feed of each chicken, therefore some egg yolks will contain higher levels. Regardless, the old saying of ‘go to work on an egg’ is as relevant today, as it was in the 1950’s and 60’s.
If you are vegetarian, there are limited sources of Vitamin D available to you. Fortunately, some food products that don't naturally contain vitamin D are fortified with this nutrient.
Because vitamin D is found almost exclusively in animal products, vegetarians and vegans are at a particularly high risk of Vitamin D deficiency. For this reason, plant-based milk substitutes like soy milk are often fortified with this nutrient and other vitamins and minerals usually found in cow's milk.
Fortified Cow’s milk:
As many milk producers are aware that we are not getting enough Vitamin D, especially in winter, fortified milk is now commonplace in our supermarkets.
There are many people living in the UK with lactose intolerance, therefore a great substitute for milk is a dairy-free yogurt. Since they rely on plant proteins for their consistency and flavour, some can be high in fat and sugars, so make a point in checking the label first. However, there are many live and greek-style yogurts that are low in saturated fats but provide calcium, protein and Vitamin D.
Eating a well-balanced diet is always the best way to keep a healthy immune system, and no individual nutrient, food or supplement is going to "boost" it beyond normal levels. However, with the recent COVID-19 virus highlighting certain deficiencies in our diets, now is the time to keep an eye out for how much Vitamin D we have in ours.