Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s stored in the body. It helps the body absorb and use calcium and phosphorus, and helps to keep levels of calcium in the blood normal. This makes it a vital vitamin for maintaining normal bones and teeth and also for contributing to the normal development of bones and teeth in babies and young children.
But that’s not all. Vitamin D also contributes to the normal function of muscles and the immune system. Experts also agree that vitamin D may reduce the risk of falling in men and women over the age of 60. This is great news, as falling is a risk factor for bone fractures. To help protect against falling, it’s recommended older people have 20mcg vitamin D each day.
The main source of vitamin D is sunlight – it’s made in our body when the skin is exposed to the sun’s rays. But increasingly, studies show that many of us have low levels of this nutrient in our blood, indicating that we can’t rely on sunshine alone to get enough of this nutrient. This means it’s important to eat more foods that are rich in vitamin D. And that’s where oily fish such as sardines, mackerel, pilchards, fresh tuna and salmon are true winners as they’re all packed with vitamin D. How much do we need? On food labels, you’ll see the Nutrient Reference Value for vitamin D is 5mcg.
However, in the UK, recommendations from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition made in 2016 say that anyone aged one or over, including pregnant and breastfeeding women, should have 10mcg vitamin D each day. Babies up to the age of one should have 8.5-10mcg a day.
The Department of Health also recommends that children from one to four years old should have a 10mcg supplement of vitamin D each day and that everyone over the age of five should consider taking a 10mcg daily supplement during the autumn and winter. People who get little sun exposure should also take a daily 10mcg supplement of vitamin D throughout the year. This could include night shift workers who sleep most of the day day, housebound people and elderly people in nursing homes or those who cover their skin for cultural reasons.
As a guideline, a 170g portion raw tuna contains 5.4mcg vitamin D, 100g raw sardines has 6.8mcg and 170g raw mackerel has 13.6mcg.Back to a-z