Ahh, Vitamin D. It’s good for your bones, teeth and immune system.
It’s been shown to defeat disease, fend off flu, defend against depression and help with weight loss.
How does Vitamin D work?
Vitamin D is technically called ergocalciferol (Vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3). You can see why it changed its name.
Your body breaks down Vitamins D2 and D3 into calcitriol, which in turn helps you absorb calcium and phosphorus—and it’s this combination that makes all the magic happen.
Good levels of this vitamin will strengthen bones, immune systems, muscles and mood.
How much Vitamin D do I need?
It’s hard to get too much of it, but it is possible. Aim for a daily intake of between 1,000-4,000 IU (25 to 100 micrograms), unless you’re trying to fix a deficiency—in which case, speak to a specialist before you rush into dosing yourself up based on some random online articles written by not-doctors.
How do I get that Vitamin D into me?
There are two broad ways to get Vitamin D: by exposing your skin to light, or by ingesting things. Both can be fun if you do them right.
It’s called the sunshine vitamin for a reason. But Vitamin D is not actually in the sun’s rays (like this author thought until he was, um, 42). The sun’s UVB radiation activates a type of cholesterol in your skin and turns that into Vitamin D3—a particularly good kind that seems to circulate longer in the body than any other kind.
This means that you can’t overdose on Vitamin D from the sun. But you can overdose on sun, so be careful. A good rule of thumb is: to get enough of this vitamin, you only need to spend about half as much time in the sun as it takes YOU to start getting sunburn. (The darker your skin, the longer you’ll need.)
Obviously, if you live in Northern Europe, this means you can spend every day outdoors from October til March and still be totally Vitamin D deficient (even in the unlikely event that it’s sunny every day, because the UVB radiation just isn’t strong enough.) So unless you move closer to the equator (or the sun), you’ll need to try one of these options…
Try a UV lamp
By mimicking the sun’s UVB radiation, UV lamps can stimulate Vitamin D production in your skin.
Flicking a switch definitely beats staring at your phone app hoping that the next two weeks of cloud icons will magically turn into balls of sunshine. Still, it’s important to follow the safety guidelines and limit your usage. What’s more, these lamps are fairly expensive.
Tuna, mackerel, oysters, shrimp, sardines, anchovies, salmon… basically, if they’re squishy and oily, they’ve probably got lots of Vitamin D in them. Just one can of salmon can give you up to half of your RDI. Farmed salmon seems to contain less, but it’s still a good start.
Like humans, mushrooms love to convert sunlight into Vitamin D—tons of it. Well, 2,348 UI (if you’re a wild maitake mushroom): that’s 3 times more than your RDI. Wild mushrooms and mushrooms grown under UV lights tend to pack the biggest punch. But even your average mushroom contains around half of your recommended daily intake. Eat them.
Your body prefers happy chickens. Because while battery hen eggs only contain around 3-5% of your Vitamin D RDI, chickens that get some sun produce Vitamin D rich eggs—packing up to 20% of your RDI! And if that chicken has also eaten Vitamin-D enriched grain, that figure can shoot up to 100%.
In short: happy chicken, happy you.
Because this particular vitamin is a) amazing and b) quite rare, food makers often use it to strengthen (or ‘fortify’) their food, especially cereal, orange juice, milk (cow, soy, almond, hemp), yoghurt and tofu. Seek out products with Vitamin D claims on the packaging.
Taking supplements is perhaps the most reliable way to get enough Vitamin D (but you need to make sure they’re high quality, so choose supplements that have been verified by a third party). You can regulate your dosage so you’re consistently getting the right amount—it’s important not to take too much, so do stick within the guidelines.
The bottom line
Age, skin colour, distance from the equator, distance from the sun, bad eating habits or just living under a permanent canopy of dripping grey fluff can all prevent your body from getting the Vitamin D it needs.
But feed it this Superpower Sunshine Vitamin D-light on a regular basis, and you’re likely to notice some real gains to your immunity, vitality and mood.