Tips for winter wellbeing from our expert Dr. Sue Jones
Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones. In the UK we get most of our vitamin D from being outside in the sunlight. Between October and early March, the sunlight does not have enough UVB radiation for our skin to be able to make vitamin D.
We still need vitamin B in winter, to help the body absorb calcium and phosphate from the foods we eat. If we do not get enough of these minerals we can have problems with our bones, teeth and muscles. Strong bones and muscles help us maintain our mobility and independence. People with higher levels of vitamin D have been found to be less likely to have dental problems and gum disease.
Vitamin D is so important for our health, it is often added as a supplement to our foods. Some breakfast cereals, fat spreads and non-dairy milk alternatives will have vitamin D added. You can also get vitamin D from oily fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Red meats, liver and eggs also contain vitamin D.
Other benefits of vitamin D are being investigated and include its potential role in helping maintain our mood and mental wellbeing and boosting our immune system.
The Department of Health recommends some groups of people should take vitamin D supplements, especially in winter. Children under 4 years old and people who are not able to spend time outside regularly are advised to take a supplement. If you have dark skin – for example you have an African, African-Caribbean or south Asian background – you may also not make enough vitamin D from sunlight. It is advisable to speak to your GP or pharmacist if you think you may benefit from taking extra vitamin D, and heed their advice about the right dose for you. Remember to store any supplements out of reach of children or pets.