For many of us, winter often feels like a time for hibernating, hunkering down until the warm weather returns. But this year, with COVID’s impact, that thought has become a reality. We’ve come to equate staying home with staying safe and while this is true, we must remember that getting out into the sunshine not only lifts our spirits but is important for our health and well-being because it helps to replenish our vital supplies of Vitamin D.
Why do we need Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is vital for bone development in children and skeletal health in adults. We probably all remember hearing old stories about children suffering from Rickets, a terrible condition causing softening and deformity of bones and all due to a lack of vitamin D. Thankfully, that condition is now rare but there are still numerous arguments for maintaining healthy levels of vitamin D in our systems. Bone health/ bone metabolism helps preserve bone mass as we get older.
- Vitamin D improves absorption of calcium and that means stronger bones.
- Some research has shown that Vitamin D is important for your mental health, reduces falls and improves the balance of older people.
The good news?
Though a Vitamin D deficiency is common, it is easy to fix! Safe sun exposure, increasing physical activity, increasing your intake of dietary calcium and foods rich in vitamin D and, if necessary, taking vitamin D supplements, will all help to boost levels.
In through the mouth…
Some foods contain vitamin D naturally, but not many: liver, egg yolk and oily fish such as salmon and sardines are all good sources, as is a spoonful of cod liver oil (if you can swallow it!) Luckily, food manufacturers often boost their products with vitamin D and it is worth reading the small print on labels to see whether the cereal, milk or orange juice etc. that you are buying has been artificially fortified.
However, food alone cannot provide adequate amounts of Vitamin D. In fact, according to the Australian Government Department of Health, we obtain only 10% of our daily requirements through dietary nutrients. So vitamin D supplements might be an option for some people. Speak with your Family Doctors Plus GP if you are uncertain.
Out and about…
With 90% of vitamin D obtained through the direct action of sunlight on the skin, it’s time to get out in that winter sunshine. Go for a walk and you will be ticking two ‘fixes’ at once – building your reserves of vitamin D and building muscle strength and stamina as you go. Winter walking means less exposure to high UV rays but it’s still worth consulting the Cancer Council Australia site for excellent advice on the safest times to venture out.
Make today your Vitamin D day and your body will thank you.