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“It’s Vitamin D Season Again”

Before you know it, the children are back at school and university and we start to ask ‘who are these contestants on Strictly Come Dancing?’. It means autumn is upon us, winter is just around the corner and we should start to consider vitamin D supplementation.

In the UK the Department of Health advises that we get the majority of our nutrients from a healthy balanced diet though there are a few exceptions. Folic acid should be taken as a supplement if looking to conceive and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to help prevent neural tube defects such as spina bifida. In addition, vitamin D is the other micronutrient that we are recommended to supplement with during the colder months.

Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D helps our bodies absorb calcium and maintain adequate magnesium and phosphate concentrations — three nutrients important for our teeth, muscle and bone health. As an antioxidant, vitamin D also plays a crucial role in boosting our immunity. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children and bone pain caused by a condition called osteomalacia in adults.

During the autumn and winter, we need to get our vitamin D from our diet, because the UV rays from the sun are not strong enough for our skin to trigger vitamin D synthesis. Yet very few foods are a source of this vital vitamin and are mainly from animals. We tend to believe that milk is a good source of vitamin D probably due to its association with being a good source of calcium. Though breast milk and many fortified non-dairy milks contain vitamin D, cow’s milk should not be relied on for its vitamin D content.

Other animal sources, which will help us gain our vitamin D are oily fish (salmon, herrings, mackerel, kippers and sardines), liver, red meat, eggs and some fortified breakfast cereals and spreads. Thus, if you’re vegetarian or vegan it may be particularly difficult to get enough of this nutrient from your diet. Though varieties vary, mushrooms seem to be the only plant-based source of vitamin D. Like us, mushrooms naturally produce vitamin D following exposure to sunlight or UV-light where they convert the plant sterol, ergosterol, into vitamin D. Also, to help, some vegan foods are fortified with this vitamin such as oat and soya milks and breakfast cereals.,

In the UK it is recommend we have 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day.

Supplements are a reliable and consistent source of vitamin D during the winter months and all year round for more vulnerable groups or those of us that are not exposed to regular sunlight throughout the year. For those following a plant-based diet you’ll be pleased to hear there are supplements suitable for vegans too, where they extract the vitamin D from mushrooms exposed to UV rays, lichen or algae.

If you would like to understand if you have the optimum nutrition for your life stage or personal needs then please contact me for a consultation. Between us, we may be able to understand who this year’s Strictly dancers are too.

Happy eating,

Nina Thomas

Registered Associate Nutritionist

Bridgford & Bingham Nutrition

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