Vitamin D has in recent years been getting a lot of attention, and rightfully so, as an increasing amount of people are suffering from critically low levels of vitamin D.
Naturally present in very few foods, vitamin D is unique given that it is primarily produced directly by the body via exposure to sunlight. In fact, just 10-30 minutes in the sun a few times a week is enough to maintain adequate levels. This is however, not advised considering the dangers associated with sun damage… and this is why a lot of foods/beverages are now vitamin D fortified. Vitamin D fortification was introduced in America during the 1930s to help counteract high incidents of rickets (bone deformities and growth impairment in children caused by vitamin D deficiency). And today the majority of milks alongside many breakfast cereals and fruit juices are fortified with vitamin D to help prevent deficiencies.
Main symptoms indicative of a deficiency include muscle pains, osteoporosis, depression and growth impairment in children (rickets) and the best way to check our vitamin D status is via a blood test. Though it can be expected to see lower levels after the darker winter months, a good diet can easily prevent plummeting too low. Generally, a vitamin D supplement is only necessary in case of a deficiency and even then it is important not to go overboard since too much vitamin D from supplements can cause toxicity and be harmful to the liver. It is on the other hand, not possible to get too much vitamin D from food and sunlight and for those who prefer an alternative to pill supplements I personally love and often recommend cod liver oil as a daily supplement. Holding more than 340% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin D per tablespoon(!), this nutritional powerhouse is also a great source of vitamin A and omega 3 fatty acids, all of which promote healthy skin and bones as well as proper functioning of the immune system. (There are many flavoured & non-reflux versions available for those who have previously had bad experiences!).
The recommended daily intake for adults between the age of 18-50 is currently 15mcg (20mcg for those over 50). By getting a glass of milk or fortified milk substitute daily and increasing dietary consumption of fish, such as wild salmon and sardines (sardines are great and have very low levels of mercury!), it is not hard to effectively maintain a healthy vitamin D status. I personally am a big believer in ‘real food’ over supplements unless it absolutely necessary. In the end, there’s no pill that can ever substitute a good and wholesome diet.