Vitamin D: Benefits and Food Sources

Vitamin D is a nutrient that we get both from eating certain foods and from sunlight exposure to our skin.  This vitamin is important because it keeps our bones, muscles and teeth healthy, amongst many other benefits. Just like vitamin A, this vitamin is fat-soluble, meaning it is absorbed into the body with fats from food, and is stored in our body’s fatty tissue. 

To get more specific, there are two forms of vitamin D:

  • Vitamin D2 (or ergocalciferol) comes from plants, so is found in certain plant-based foods and fortified foods
  • Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is produced by sunlight and so is found in animals. Food sources of D3 include oily fish, liver and egg yolks


Why vitamin D is important

Vitamin D is important to our health for a number of reasons, however one of its key functions is  regulating the absorption and utilisation of calcium and phosphate, two minerals essential to the development and growth of our bones and teeth. If the body does not get enough vitamin D, you may be at an increased risk of developing bone disorders such as osteoporosis or “soft bones”. Children who are not getting the recommended amount of vitamin D are at an increased risk of developing rickets, a condition that leads to poor bone growth and development.

Vitamin D also plays a role in the functioning of our immune system, hence our ability to defend our bodies against nasties such as bacteria and viruses.

How much vitamin D do we need and how do I know if I’m deficient?

The recommended dietary intake for adults of all ages is 10 micrograms (10µg) of vitamin D per day (a microgram is 1000 times smaller than a milligram[1]).

In the UK, people should make enough vitamin D from March to September simply by being out in the sun with their skin exposed[2]. In recent years scientists have identified that many people do not make enough vitamin D in these months, owing to a number of factors such as clothing, sun cream, time spent in the sun, and even skin tone.
The vitamin D we make is stored in the liver, so when the sun is no longer shining that strongly in the autumn and winter months and we can’t no longer produce it, we draw from these reserves.  However, we also need to rely on food sources, including any fortified products, and even supplements to consume the recommended daily 10µg.

If your vitamin D levels are low, you might experience fatigue and weakness, muscle and bone pain [3]  and even a change in your mood.  All these symptoms can be quite vague though, and are often attributed to other conditions, so the best way to determine whether you are vitamin D deficient is through a blood test. Speak to your GP if you have any concerns.

Foods rich in vitamin D

 You can get vitamin D from various types of foods such as:

  • Oily fish: salmon, tuna, sardines, herring, mackerel
  • Red meat
  • Liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Certain mushrooms
  • Fortified foods like breakfast cereals or spreads (check the label)

If you need a bit of inspiration on how to up your vitamin D intake why not try this pan fried salmon with peas recipe or a salmon and chilli pita?  Or how about exploring our beef-based recipes if you want to indulge in some red meat?

Discover more information about how to have a healthy diet and how to create a balanced meal with our nutritious Birds Eye products.