Vitamin D is sometimes known as the sunshine vitamin as we can manufacture it in our bodies when we are exposed to sunlight. In Ireland we rely heavily on sunshine to provide us with vitamin D, so fingers crossed for the good summer we’ve all been waiting for!
If the sun does come, get out and enjoy it. Just 20 minutes exposure of the face and arms to sunlight will keep your vitamin D levels stable. Even a bright day will do this but we need to peel off the layers - it doesn’t work unless our skin is exposed!
During very hot weather, however, it is advised to stay in the shade and wear a hat especially between the hours of 11am-4pm to avoid the sun’s damaging rays.
However, when sunlight is in short supply, we need to look to the foods we eat to supply some vitamin D. Good dietary sources of vitamin D include fortified milks, fortified breakfast cereals, oily fish, margarines, egg yolks, and other fortified foods (check the labels ).
As we grow older our skin becomes less efficient at turning this sunshine into vitamin D. This means that we should either get out more, or make sure we get vitamin D from our diets.
New research in the UK has shown that it is not only good for our bones but it also lowers the risk of developing heart disease and diabetes. Another study in the US showed that men with low levels of vitamin D were about 2.5 times more likely to have a heart attack compared to men with higher levels of the vitamin.
So the message is get out and enjoy the fine weather if we get it, and also continue to include good sources of vitamin D in your diet.
From Community Nutrition & Dietetic Service, HSE, Marlinstown Office Park, Mullingar. Tel (044 ) 9353220 or email [email protected].