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Getting all of your vitamins and minerals through a healthy, balanced diet is one of the best things you can do to support your body.

Vitamin D is an exception. It’s known as the sunshine vitamin for a reason as our bodies absorb most of this vitamin through sunlight , with only small amounts found in some foods, including oily fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring, red meat, organ meats such as liver, egg yolks and fortified foods such as certain fat spreads, milk and breakfast cereals

The Public Health Agency is recommending that everyone take a Vitamin D supplement of 10 micrograms (10µg) every day, as people spend much greater amounts of time indoors due to the ongoing Covid-19 lockdown.

Vitamin D plays a role in building a strong body and helping our immune system to function properly, according to Anne Parle, Technical Executive in Human Health and Nutrition with safefood.

“A lack of vitamin D can reduce our bodies’ ability to absorb calcium and phosphorus from the foods we eat. Over time this increases the risk of osteoporosis. Osteoporosis causes bones to weaken and become brittle, increasing the risk of fractures and breakages,” says Anne.

There is some evidence to suggest associations between vitamin D deficiency and conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some inflammatory disorders, certain cancers and higher mortality.

While the human body is able to make its own vitamin D in the presence of sunlight, this can be restricted by use of sunscreen (which is important to reduce your risk of skin cancer), clothing choices and the amount of time spent indoors.

“People with darker complexions have a lower ability to make vitamin D and are at a higher risk of deficiency,” Anne says.

“During winter in Northern Ireland, sunlight is not strong enough and our skin cannot produce enough vitamin D to meet our requirements.”

Anne  says that it is possible to get too much vitamin D - usually as a result of taking large doses of vitamin D supplements.

“Taking too much vitamin D over a long period of time can weaken the bones, kidney and heart due to a build-up of calcium in the body. Do not go over the recommended intake of vitamin D unless advised by your healthcare professional,” says Anne.

There are a number of ways to get the 10 micrograms (10µg) of vitamin D recommended for everyone aged five and older.

You can take it in the form of a multi-vitamin supplement that contains 10 microgram (10μg) of vitamin D; a calcium and vitamin D supplement that contains 10 microgram (10μg) of vitamin D; or a vitamin D only supplement that contains 10 microgram (10μg) of vitamin D

“The good news is that you don’t need a prescription for vitamin D - supplements can be bought in your local pharmacy or supermarket. If you have been prescribed a higher dose of vitamin D by a healthcare professional, it is important to continue to take that supplement at the dose prescribed. If you are unsure, talk to your healthcare professional or pharmacist,” Anne says.

While vitamin D is needed for a host of vital functions within the body, there is insufficient high-quality evidence to support claims that vitamin D supplementation is beneficial in preventing or treating Covid-19.

For more information and practical advice on healthy eating, being active and easy recipes, visit WWW.SAFEFOOD.NET

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