Cold, dark, winter months usually mean dashing outside when necessary and enjoying the rest of time in the warm indoors. But with the lack of sun and sunlight during this period, people in the UK are faced with the possibility of having a low vitamin D status.
Vitamin D is important in helping maintaining good health. In fact vitamin D trains and arms T-cells — the foot soldiers of our immune system which seek out and destroy threats, such as bacteria and viruses.
There is also a growing body of evidence indicating that vitamin D has an important role in maintaining bone health, ameliorating cell ageing and preventing cardiovascular disease, diabetes, immune dysfunction and certain cancers. Recently, there has been increasing interest in vitamin D deficiency and disrupted sleeping patterns. More work needs to be undertaken but it is thought that bone diseases and nonspecific pain bought about by vitamin D shortfalls could disrupt sleep.
Lack of sunlight - what can we do?Well, we should still enjoy the outdoors, and exercising outside regularly is a way to assists with endogenous production of vitamin D. We should also look at our diet. The latest data from the NDNS found that ‘meat and meat products’ were the main contributor to vitamin D intakes across all age groups, so incorporating lean red meat into your diet is one of the key ways to improve your vitamin D levels. We should also regularly include other foods such as fortified margarines, milks and cereals.
Red meat: the ‘wow’ factorsBesides being one of the few foods that provide useful quantities of vitamin D lean red meat also contains protein, zinc, iron and B12 - which contributes to energy production, helping to prevent tiredness and fatigue.
MAP FACT: Adding lean red meat to soups and stews during the winter months is a tasty way to help boost vitamin D status!
Dr Emma Derbyshire