Why vitamin D is your best friend
After a long, dark winter, anything dubbed the ‘sunshine vitamin’ should be welcomed into our wellness routine resolutely. But how much do you really know about vitamin D? Start exploring the benefits of this health-boosting vitamin and you may be surprised at just how beneficial those summer rays are for your body.
Why vitamin D is important has been highlighted by doctors for years, but only recently has it been proven in the British Medical Journal that the vitamin can cut the risk of colds, flu and other dangerous infections.
If you’re in a part of the world with minimal sunny days, your levels may well be running low. Here’s what you need to know about upping your intake, the best ways to get it, and exactly why this sunshine vitamin is golden for both your body and mind.
What is vitamin D?
Despite the name, vitamin D is actually a pro-hormone - going through an array of biochemical reactions in the body before you can actually use it. There are five different types - D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5, some of which can affect as many as 2,000 genes in your body.
When we’re exposed to sunlight, UV rays penetrate the skin and activate the inactive form of vitamin D, spurring its wonderful benefits.
Why is it so important?
Since it regulates the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, vitamin D is crucial for healthy bones, teeth and muscles. It’s not only vital for the immune system, but it can reduce the likelihood of cancer and help prevent mental health problems. Research has shown that vitamin D may help ward off depression - people with the condition found an improvement after taking vitamin D supplements.
Without vitamin D, you may be preventing yourself from seeing results at the gym, too. If your body can’t absorb calcium, bone growth and muscle strength suffer. Some studies have shown that the sunshine vitamin regulates insulin sensitivity, in turn affecting metabolism and aiding in weight loss.
How can I get more vitamin D?
With an increasing amount of studies into how vitamin D works, we’re more in-the-know than ever on how to prevent deficiencies. Here are a few ways you can boost your levels:
1. Add more D to your diet
Eating your way to higher levels can help - oily fish (such as salmon, sardines and mackerel), egg yolks and red meat all contain small amounts of it. Other sources include breakfast cereals and some yoghurts, which are fortified with vitamin D.
2. Take vitamin D supplements
If you’ve had a blood test that shows you’re deficient, another way to up your sunshine vitamin is by taking a vitamin D supplement. Make sure it’s the real thing, vitamin D3, known as cholecalciferol. Many cheap multivitamins are made up of vitamin D2, ergocalciferol, which is synthetic and less effective. Pop a daily supplement of 10mcg (400 iu) of vitamin D, especially during the winter months, when sunshine is scarce.
3. Soak up the sunshine
The most obvious way to up your intake of the sunshine vitamin naturally is to get under those warming rays. Sunlight spurs your body to make vitamin D - this means about 20 to 25 minutes of exposure a day (not through a window). Those with darker skin and older people may need longer to acquire their daily intake, however, as skin pigmentation hinders light absorption and the process loses efficiency with age.