You might alreday know that vitamin D is essential for bone health, as it helps the body absorb calcium, but did you know that it may lower blood pressure and help reduce your risk of getting cancer, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, diabetes and even ward off a common cold?
Are you getting enough?
The body produces vitamin D through exposure to sunshine, but during the winter months, many of us Brits don't get enough. In fact, it's estimated that around 50% of all adults have some degree of vitamin D deficiency.
A mild to moderate deficiency can lead to bone pain and weakening of the bones (osteoporosis). More severe cases can lead to the development of rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults. If you're worried, your GP can do a blood test to check your levels.
Our video explains the dangers of vitamin D deficiency...
As most our our vitamin D comes from sunshine, even if you eat a healthy, well-balanced
diet that provides all the other vitamins and goodness you need, you may not be getting enough. Here are the foods you might want to add to your diet...
Consider taking a vitamin D supplement. Earlier this year, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) - a group of experts that advises the government - proposed that everyone over the age of one should take 10 micrograms of vitamin D per day. Currently, the goverment recommend that only at-risk groups, including pregnant women, babies and adults aged over 65, need to take supplements, but may revise this in future.
Fatty fish - such as salmon, herring, pilchards, sardines, trout and kippers - are the best natural sources of vitamin D. Salmon contains lean protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, making it a great choice. Don't like fish? You could always take cod liver oil, which is high in vitamin D. Don't take it if you're expecting. Choose a multi-vitmain specially designed to take in pregnancy instead.
3. Fortified foods
Margarine is required by law to contain vitamin D, whle many breakfast cereals and some yoghurts are fortified with the vitamin. Check the label to see how much each one contains. Marks and Spencer recently introduced a range of fortified foods, including bread. Milk in the UK isn't generally fortified (unlike the US) but some supermarkets stock fortified varities, such as Waitrose's full milk.
4. Go to work on an egg
Eggs contain small amounts of vitamin D, but this varies during the seasons. Contrary to previous belief, eating one or two eggs a day won't increase your body's cholesterol levels like saturated fat, so feel free to go to work on an egg every day. The vitamin is found in the yolk, rather than the white.
Mushrooms have the ability to produce vitamin D when exposed to UV light, just like us. Because they tend grow in the dark, they don't usually contain the vitamin, unless they're exposed to sunlight. M&S sell mushrooms which are grown in ultraviolet light to encourage vitamin D production.