Vitamin D: how to hack the sunshine vitamin


Ain’t no sunshine? Boost your vitamin D stores in the winter months with these key foods.

By Rhalou Allerhand

Nicknamed the sunshine vitamin, our main source of vitamin D comes from sunlight directly on the skin. But, according to government research, approximately 10 million people in the UK have low vitamin D stores, thanks to a conspicuous lack of sunshine during the winter months.

Vitamin D is an essential building block for growth and development, and if one in five of us aren’t getting the right amount, this can lead to serious health implications. The good news is, if you make a few simple adjustments, you can sidestep the inclement weather and stay in optimum health.

Why do we need vitamin D?

Vitamin D is produced when sunlight is absorbed by the skin, and is used to regulate your calcium and phosphate levels. These two minerals are essential for keeping your bones and muscles in good shape.

‘The two main roles of vitamin D in the body are bone health and immune function,’ says Sophie Medlin, registered dietitian and owner at City Dietitians. ‘Vitamin D has an impact on bone health; cancer; heart disease; autoimmune disease and infections,’ she adds.

Are you vitamin D deficient?

If you’re constantly tired, achy, or always getting ill, it’s possible you could be vitamin D deficient. In the worst-case scenario, vitamin D deficiency can increase the risk of ricketsin children and osteoporosis in adults.

‘Because we are now mostly indoor creatures and we live in parts of the world that don’t get reliable sunlight all year round, we are certainly at risk of deficiency,’ says Medlin.

?If you are experiencing vitamin D deficiency symptoms, visit your doctor and ask for a blood test. If results show that you are deficient then it’s worth taking vitamin D supplements.

How much vitamin D do we need?

The recommended daily dosage for the general population is:

  • 600 IU per day of vitamin D between 1 and 70 years of age.
  • 800 IU above this age.

When supplements are administered, the recommended doses are 400 or 1000 IU/day of vitamin D with or without calcium, 10 000 IU every 7 or 10 days, or 50 000 IU per month.

? According to Public Health England 10 micrograms of vitamin D are needed daily to help keep your bones, teeth and muscles healthy. Speak to your GP if you’re not sure about the correct vitamin D dosage, as it is possible to take too much.

Which foods contain vitamin D?

While sunshine and supplements are the easiest ways to ensure you receive sufficient levels of vitamin D, you can also derive it from certain foods. Add the following foods to your diet to ensure you hit your vitamin D quota:


Fortified orange juice



Codliver Oil


Sardines in oil

Fortified cereals



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