As we hurtle head-first into winter and thoughts turn from sunny days to snowy ones, here at True Food Nutrition our thoughts are turning to our VIV - that's our Very Important Vitamin - vitamin D. Most of us know vitamin D as the "sunshine vitamin" and that's because most of the vitamin D we absorb is through the exposure of our skin to sunlight.
Now it may still be sunny where you live but believe us, at True Food Nutrition HQ sunshine is a little hard to come by at any time of the year! So it's time for us to crack open our vitamin D testing kits to see how we have fared this summer and whether we need a little VIV boost to see us through the winter months. But what's so special about vitamin D?
Apart from its most well-known and crucial function in maintaining bone health by promoting the absorption of calcium into the bones, did you know that there is a receptor for vitamin D in almost all human tissue, including the brain? That means that it takes care of a whole lot more than just our bones. Here are just a few of its superpowers:
Heart Hero - vitamin D regulates blood pressure and protects the muscle cells in the cardiovascular system, helping to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Mood Marvel - vitamin D plays a role in protecting us from mood disorders and depression which are often more prevalent during the dark winter months.
Immune Invincibility - vitamin D is involved in powering our immune system, helping to protect us from infection and all of those winter nasties.
Sugar Saviour - vitamin D helps to metabolise glucose and that allows us to be better able to control our blood sugar levels, helping to crush those winter cravings.
How do we get enough vitamin D? As we already mentioned, most of our vitamin D is absorbed through the skin with a controlled and daily exposure to sunlight but that is often easier said than done, especially through the winter months. There are an estimated 1 billion people worldwide that are thought to have deficient or insufficient levels of vitamin D and that is attributed not just to lack of exposure to sunlight but also to age, skin colour and lack of availability in diet. Despite its importance, it's a tricky thing to get enough of.
As Nutritional Therapists, we always advocate that we should be getting all of our "essentials" from our diet but it is actually quite difficult to obtain enough vitamin D from food. There are some foods that contain sufficient amounts, fish and fish oils being the most abundant, and other foods that are fortified with vitamin D. But it is rarely enough to make a significant contribution to our daily intake, especially for vegetarians and vegans.
We always recommend that you test your vitamin D. Why? Well, for a start, if you don't know how your vitamin D is doing and you are supplementing, it's going to be a bit hit and miss and may be rather expensive if you are taking your daily dose and you don't know if it is helping or not! And even if you're not supplementing, knowing how you are fixed heading into winter is, for all of the reasons above, a good idea.
Here at True Food Nutrition, we test our vitamin D levels regularly so that we know whether to take more cod liver oil (Amanda's worst nightmare, apart from her fear of broccoli!) or to adjust our supplement regime. It is really important to say here that there are some medications that may interact with vitamin D supplements and so if you are considering taking ANY supplement for the first time and you are currently taking any prescribed medication, it is absolutely essential that you discuss this with your GP or your health practitioner first.
If you'd like to talk to us more about how to take care of yourself this winter or if you have any concerns about your health that you'd like to discuss, please do get in touch and book a complimentary call here.