Vitamin D is one of the most crucial vitamins for our health and wellbeing. It is known for being the ‘sun vitamin’. Unfortunately, for most of us in northern Europe, we simply can’t get enough vitamin D from sunlight alone. We need to look for it in our diet and high quality supplements.
One of the significant roles vitamin D plays in our body stems from its ability to aid our absorption of calcium and phosphorus. The proper balance of these minerals maintains bone density, which is essential to prevent and/or treat fractures.
Additionally, due to its role in calcium reabsorption, Vitamin D regulates blood pressure, It can improve your overall health and therefore lifespan.
A systematic review concluded that, “Vitamin D is essential for maintaining a healthy mineral and bone metabolism. It stimulates calcium and phosphate absorption by the intestine, regulates bone metabolism, and negatively controls PTH secretion through the endocrine action of its active metabolite calcitriol. Vitamin D also possesses a variety of effects unrelated with mineral and bone metabolism, including the regulation of arterial blood pressure and the prevention of cardiovascular complications, modulation of immunological responses, regulation of insulin production and prevention against diabetes, protection against certain cancers, renoprotection, and other beneficial actions.”
For all of these reasons, vitamin D is essential for the body so it’s really useful to watch for warning signs of deficiency such as having fatigue or tiredness, back and/or bone pain, low immunity, feeling down etc.
Focussing on the positives, here is a bit more information on three of the most significant benefits vitamin D offers you, namely improving your bone health, emotional balance and immunity.
Bone Health and Vitamin D
The majority of your bone structure and mass is from calcium, and the body gathers this mass during your younger years and starts to gradually loose density after the age of 20. Gathering optimal bone density before your 20’s helps to ensure that you have enough in store for later.
Vitamin D helps your body to absorb dietary calcium from the gut so that your bones can use this calcium for strength and healing. Therefore, if your vitamin D level is high you are helping to prevent suffering from osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Your Immune System and Vitamin D
According to research data from the National Center for Biotechnological Information (NCBI), vitamin D has a direct role in your immune system. So, boosting your levels can reduce your susceptibility to bacteria and viruses. Due to this correlation between vitamin D and strong immunity, optimal levels of vitamin D could support you in the current pandemic of COVID-19.
Your Mood and Vitamin D
Many associate vitamin D with sunshine, summer and holidays, which in itself can boost our mood! There is also a developing hypothesis on the correlation between vitamin D and Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). The depressive symptoms in SAD is common during times of the year when there is less sunlight and recommended treatment often involves light therapy with lamps etc. and vitamin supplementation.
Production and Sources of Vitamin D
The human body synthesizes and stores vitamin D from sunlight. In the absence of adequate sunlight, your body will not be able to make it naturally, so you will need to focus on avoiding deficiency.
The top three ways to avoid deficiency are:
- High quality supplements from natural sources
- Additional daily exposure to sunlight (not easy in Britain!)
- Vitamin D-rich diets (such as oysters, oily fish, and dairy products, see recipe below)
The Effectiveness of Vitamin D Supplements
It seems clear that we could all benefit from taking vitamin D. See here for recent research on vitamin D supplementation from the highly respected Lancet.
So, what do we need to look for when buying supplements? Most importantly, for the vitamin to be effective, it should not be artificially made from chemicals or contained in a chemical coating, which is often not easy for the body to break down, hindering digestion of the vitamin. We can metabolise a vitamin supplement much better when it is made from its natural source and combined with other minerals, phytonutrients and trace elements etc., which work symbiotically to increase their effectiveness. How a product is sourced, made and tested is also really important. For more information about the vitamins and supplements we take ourselves and therefore recommend or to discuss any aspect of your nutritional health, please contact Oliver.
Recipes for Vitamin D rich meals
Roasted salmon with pan fried asparagus and egg (serves 4)
2 cooked salmon fillets (poached or roasted)
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1tbsp unsalted butter
2 lemons cut into wedges
- Drizzle your asparagus with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Bring a non-stick frying pan up to a high heat and add the asparagus constantly moving for two minutes, remove and set aside.
- Using the same frying pan add the remaining oil and butter along with salt and pepper, bring the heat up to medium and add your spinach. Keep this moving to gently wilt and be coated in the oil and butter. Once done turn the heat off.
- At the same time, bring a deep frying pan of water to the boil for your eggs. When boiling, turn the heat to a low simmer and give it a swirl with a spoon. Gently crack your egg as close to the water as you can and let the swirl settle the egg whites into place. Continue with all four and cook for about three minutes. Once cooked scoop out with a large slotted spoon and place the eggs onto some kitchen roll to soak up excess water.
- Divide the salmon, asparagus and spinach onto four plates and place an egg on top.
- Serve with a good amount of black pepper and a lemon wedge.
Lemon Sardine Linguine (serves 4)
400g dried linguine
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp finely sliced shallot
2 tsp chili flakes
1 garlic clove (minced)
2 x 120g cans boneless sardine fillets (drained)
1 lemon (juice and zest)
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp baby kale
- Cook the linguine according to the package instructions. Drain and keep back two tablespoons of the cooking water. Toss the pasta in the pan you cooked it in with the reserved cooking water and 1 tbsp of olive oil. Keep warm.
- While the pasta is cooking, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed frying pan to hot, but not smoking.
- Add the shallot and cook for one minute. Add the chili flakes and stir. Lower the heat slightly and add the garlic. Stir well and cook for one minute
- Add the drained sardines to the pan stirring carefully to avoid breaking them up too much. Finally add the lemon zest and stir again.
- Add parsley and baby kale and stir the sardine sauce in with the linguine. Add salt and pepper to taste – finish with a drizzle of lemon juice and serve.
Enjoy and stay well!
Image by Roman Grac