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Best foods and health benefits for Vitamin D

According to the NHS, from late March to the end of September, most people should be able to get all the vitamin D they need from sunlight alone, however, this isn't always the case for everyone.

Heart UK states that older people often struggle to produce more vitamin D, and certain medications (particularly those used to treat Crohn's disease, coeliac disease, or types of liver and kidney disease) can change the way that vitamin D is controlled in the body. Whether you're simply spending too much time indoors or have a specific condition that limits your ability to make vitamin D, there are plenty of foods and supplements which can help.

What does vitamin D do?

Vitamin D helps to:

  • Regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body, providing you with the much-needed nutrients to keep your immune system, bones, teeth, and muscles healthy.

  • It also ensures the normal growth and development of bones and teeth.

According to Holland & Barrett: "Your body makes around 90% of the Vitamin D it needs, but this can only happen when your skin gets enough direct UV light from sunshine." As a result, we often need to compensate during the winter months via supplements and foods.

Pareena Patel, a pharmacist at LloydsPharmacy explains:

"Vitamin D plays a vital role in calcium absorption and is required for healthy bone and cartilage development and maintenance. It can also help support healthy muscle function and circulation too. It’s a vitamin that is essential for babies, children, adults, and the elderly alike. It is important to take a supplement that has the right intake for the individual. For example, babies should not be taking the same supplement as adults and vice-versa, as too much vitamin D can have a detrimental effect."

How to get vitamin D?

The body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight, but during the winter months, the best ways to get vitamin D are through certain foods or supplements.

Can vitamin D supplements improve my skin?

According to Healthline, in some cases, vitamin D supplements can be used to improve your skin. There are a number of factors that can contribute to the development of acne, one of which is a bacterial overgrowth, and as vitamin D has antimicrobial properties, by taking supplements you might be able to calm your symptoms. Ultimately, more studies are needed to confirm this, however, some may experience benefits.

Which foods contain vitamin D?

Vitamin D can be found in a number of foods, including:

  • Oily fish – e.g. salmon, sardines, herring, canned tuna, and mackerel.

  • Red meat

  • Mushrooms

  • Liver

  • Egg yolks

  • Fortified foods – orange juice, soy milk, certain cereals, and oatmeal.

Related: View more Healthy food articles here.

How much vitamin D should I have per day?

The NHS advises that 10 micrograms a day should be enough for most people.

Surprisingly, it is possible to have too much vitamin D:

Adults, including pregnant and breastfeeding women and the elderly, as well as children aged 11 to 17 years, should never take more than 100 micrograms (4,000 IU) of vitamin D a day as it could be harmful.

As for children, ages 1 to 10 years should not have more than 50 micrograms (2,000 IU) a day. Meanwhile, infants under 12 months should not have more than 25 micrograms (1,000 IU) a day.

Some people have medical conditions that mean they may not be able to safely take as much vitamin D, in which case they should make sure to consult a doctor.

What is the difference between vitamin D and vitamin D3?

Vitamin D is actually made up of several different forms, the most important of which are D2 and D3.

Vitamin D2 is produced by plants while vitamin D3 is made by your skin when you get enough sunlight, and it can also be found in animal products.

Studies have shown that D3 is more important for the body than D2. To maintain healthy levels of this form, it is advised to incorporate certain animal products into your daily diet. Extremely problematic for vegetarians and vegans, anyone consuming a plant-based diet can instead opt for supplements containing D3.

View more Healthy Living articles here.