Paula Southworth

Nutritionist and Health Coach

BSc Nutrition and Sports Science

Massey University, Auckland

New Zealand

 

Vitamin D – the sunshine vitamin

 

Isn’t it lovely to feel to warmer weather slowly encroaching upon us?  Getting out of bed without your toes freezing is certainly a plus. 

 

 I saw strawberries in one of our local supermarkets the other day.  I have to admit to feeling a little excited at the thought of all the delicious summer fruits to come, leaving behind all the comfort foods of winter and embracing the delights that spring has to offer. 

Also being able to be outdoors more and enjoy the warm sunshine.  While many of us are aware of the dangers of over exposure to the sun, something that is less well known is the fact that exposure to the sun is one of the primary ways our bodies obtain vitamin D. Our skin has the ability to produce vitamin D when exposed to UVB rays. Vitamin D is crucial to the health of our bones, as it helps our bodies absorb the calcium from our food that our bones need to maintain their strength. It’s also important for healthy muscle function.

Unfortunately there aren't many foods that contain vitamin D and those that do, only have small amounts.  Some of these include oily fish such as canned tuna and salmon, eggs, dairy and liver. Who remembers being given cod liver oil as a child?  Severely low levels of vitamin D can cause rickets (a bone softening condition causing bow legs and knock knees) in children, osteomalacia (soft, brittle bones), osteoporosis and bone and muscle pain in adults. Rickets is very rare these days, as most of us get enough vitamin D to prevent it, but according to the NZ Nutrition surveys, about one third of the population have less than the recommended levels of vitamin D.  So we’re doing a great job of ‘slip, slop, slap’, but a little exposure to the sun, without sunscreen on each day is important, 5 to 15 minutes may be all that you need. Unfortunately sitting by a sunny window doesn’t do the job as glass stops UVB rays, so enjoy the outdoors before 10 am and after 4 pm (Cancer Society recommendation) this spring and top up your vitamin D levels.

Printed in the Rodney Times on November 4, 2014 by Paula Southworth.