The Low Down on Vitamin D
By Melanie McGrice, AdvAPD.
Have you heard this buzzing about vitamin D? It seems to be everywhere and whenever it comes up in conversation it’s always a surprise to hear that people are taking Vitamin D supplements. Is this just another fad or is it something real? Healthy Mama wanted to know more so we asked dietician Melanie McGrice, AdvAPD tell us all about it. Take it away Melanie!
Why do we need Vitamin D?
Maintaining adequate Vitamin D levels is important to help manage a range of health conditions.
- Maintain healthy bones
Vitamin D assists the absorption of calcium needed for healthy bones. Without adequate Vitamin D calcium is leached out of your bone stores, weakening them and 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.
- Strengthen your immune system
Your immune system is comprised of an array of immune cells that are designed to fight off nasties and keep you feeling your best. Vitamin D receptors are found on the majority of your immune cells and play a role in their function and signalling. Deficiency in Vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity, where your immune system starts to attack your own body, as well as an increased susceptibility to infection such as the flu and respiratory tract infections.
- 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 the actual mechanism as to how Vitamin D works on these brain receptors is not fully understood it is believed that adequate Vitamin D can potentially prevent or minimise symptoms of anxiety and/or depression.
Where do we get Vitamin D from?
Food sources of Vitamin D are limited and include canned fish such as salmon, tuna or sardines, 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 we just need to get outside more to get our hit of Vitamin D?
Yeah! There’s really no need to feel blue as all you need to do is head on out into some glorious sunshine and let your body lap up the Vitamin D from the sun!
But what about skin protection?
UV radiation from the sun is also the main cause of skin cancer so it is still important to be sun smart by avoiding excessive exposure to UV rays particularly in the middle of the day, and using sunscreen and protective clothing as advised. 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 do you need?
Finding a happy medium between deficiency and over-diligent sun exposure shouldn’t be a dilemma. For most people in Australia, exposure of the hands, arms and face to sunlight in the early morning or late afternoon (before 10am and after 3pm and/or when UV index is below 3) for approximately 5-10 minutes per day in summer and 20-30 minutes per day in winter is adequate. For people with darker skin or who have their hands, arms and/or face covered for most of the day, additional time may be required. Head on outside (being sun smart of course) to boost your Vitamin D levels naturally and keep your body and mind strong.
What about people who are taking supplements?
If you do have a Vitamin D deficiency then you’ll need a short dose of supplementation. Have your levels retested after 3 months to ensure your levels are back up into the normal range and then remind yourself to expose yourself to a little more sunshine each day to maintain your levels.
How can we find out if we have normal levels?
If you are concerned about your Vitamin D levels, a simple blood test can determine your level and assess your risk. Seek advice from your doctor or local Accredited Practising Dietitian for more information.
Five Easy Ways to get more Vitamin D
- Eat lunch outside instead of at your desk.
- Take a 5 minute walk instead of a coffee break.
- Have your breakfast in the garden.
- Get off the stop before or park the car further from your office to take a 5 min sun blast on your way to work.
- Grab some chalk and head out into your street with the kids, spend some time drawing hopscotch, tic-tac-toe and other games on the sidewalk.
This informative article was written by Melanie McGrice. Enjoy delicious recipes and interesting articles in Part 2 of the Yellow Edition of Healthy Mama Magazine. Enjoy your FREE subscription below…x
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