Vitamin D - Should we Supplement?
Co-Written by Talia Cecchele & Andrea Clares
What’s so important about the “sunshine” vitamin and are we getting enough of it?
Vitamin D is a key micronutrient which helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body. Both of these are needed for bone and teeth health and muscle function. Vitamin D also works together with vitamin A to support the immune system. A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone and muscle pain, respiratory tract infections and bone deformities such as rickets in children or osteomalacia in adults. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin (it is stored inside our fat cells) so if you have a very-low body fat percentage or are underweight this could also put you at risk of deficiency as your body can’t store enough.
How much do I need?
It is recommended to get 10 micrograms  of vitamin D a day to prevent health risks.
Where do I get vitamin D from?
The main source of vitamin D is from sunlight, as the skin converts ultraviolet B (UVB) rays on the skin. It is recommended that we get 15-20 minutes of sun exposure daily on the face, forearms or legs to make the recommended amount, although this can vary depending on someone’s skin type.
You can get some vitamin D from food by eating animal products like oily fish, eggs and dairy. Some breakfast cereals, fat spreads and plant-based dairy alternatives are also fortified with vitamin D but the amount varies between brands and countries.
Fun fact! You can get most of your daily dose of vitamin D by eating 3 button mushrooms which have been exposed to sunlight ! So pop your mushrooms upside-down, on the windowsill or outside for 20 minutes. You might also be able to find sun-exposed mushrooms in the supermarket.
Do I need to supplement?
While most people can get enough vitamin D in the sunnier months (late March/early April to September in the UK, or all year round in some countries like Australia and Spain), in the UK, it is recommended that all children (above 5) and adults consider a vitamin D supplement in the Winter months of 10 micrograms (ug) daily. There are certain groups in the population who are at higher risk of being deficient, such as those with darkly pigmented skin, those who don’t spend much time outdoors (e.g. the elderly or frail) or that wear clothes that cover up most of their skin. It is recommended to consider vitamin D supplementation all year round if you fall into any of these groups. Speak to your GP to find out what works best for you.
Try making these vitamin D rich recipes below:
Poached eggs with Beetroot & Ricotta Toast
Slightly sauté your sun-exposed mushrooms and add them on toasts, salads or into your favorite pasta sauce
1. Public Health England. PHE publishes new advice on vitamin D [Internet]. GOV.UK. 2016 [cited 4 May 2020]. Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/phe-publishes-new-advice-on-vitamin-d
2. Cardwell G, Bornman J, James A, Black L. A Review of Mushrooms as a Potential Source of Dietary Vitamin D. Nutrients. 2018;10(10):1498.
Talia is a registered dietitian working in private practice and as an eating disorder specialist dietitian in London's leading private mental health hospital. As a freelance dietitian, Talia not only offers 1:1 consultations but can present at your workplace, create recipes or articles or host a cooking demonstration. To enquire please fill out a contact form.