How to get your daily dose of Vitamin D (and why you really need it)

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  • Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins for good health - but how can you make sure you get your daily dose?

    Yes, you know vitamin D is good for you, and that there may even be a link between Coronavirus and vitamin D. But do you know which vitamin D foods you need to be piling your plate with this winter?

    Short answer: probably not. While there’s a wealth of evidence to show the incredible benefits of getting your daily dose of Vitamin D, there’s not so much circulated about just how you hit your daily 10mg without supplementing.

    Why is vitamin D so important? Good question. “Vitamin D is one of the most important vitamins because it has an abundance of uses,” says nutritionist for health and fitness app lifesum, Lovisa Nilsson. “It also enhances the body’s absorption of other vitamins and minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and phosphate.” Mel Wakeman, senior lecturer in Nutrition & Applied Physiology at Birmingham City University, adds that vitamin D “may also have roles in preventing health problems such as cancers, heart disease, diabetes, and viral infections.”

    We’ve spoken to some of the country’s top nutritionists to cover their go-to vit d foods. Keep scrolling – and don’t miss our favourite vitamin D recipes, while you’re here.

    10 best vitamin D foods to add to your diet, stat 

    1. Salmon

    Salmon is the best vitamin D food out there (wild salmon has more than farmed salmon, FYI). Just half a fillet of salmon has more than the daily recommended allowance for one person.

    2. Milk

    Most types of cow’s milk are fortified with vitamin D. You can also buy yoghurt and other dairy products that have been fortified (usually whole milk not semi-skimmed).

    Vitamin C foods: Baked salmon with spinach pasta and green peas

    3. Eggs

    Two large free-range eggs can hold about one-eighth of your recommended dose of vitamin D.

    4. Mushrooms

    If you include a large handful of mushrooms to your meal you are looking at a significant amount of vitamin D, especially if they have been exposed to sunlight.

    Vitamin D foods: Close up of caucasian woman breaking egg and making sunny side up eggs. Domestic kitchen interior. Breakfast preparation.

    5.  Tuna

    Tinned fish, such as tuna or sardines, contain over a quarter of the recommended amount of vitamin D.

    6. Pork

    Pork ribs, in particular, are rich in vitamin D, but do be mindful of the fat content.

    Vitamin D foods: Healthy Corn Flakes with milk for Breakfast on table, food and drink

    7. Cereals

    Similarly to milk, cereals are often fortified with Vitamin D, particularly ones aimed at children, but it does vary, so check the label.

    8. Tofu

    When we say  Vitamin D foods, tofu probably isn’t top of the list? However, one fifth of a block of raw tofu has lots of lovely Vitamin D in it. But before you go eating it by the block raw, you need to do something to the tofu (like marinade it).

    VItamin D foods: Japanese Otsu Salad with buckwheat noodles, Soba

    9. Orange juice

    One cup of fortified orange juice has more Vitamin D than a cup of fortified milk.

    10. Ricotta cheese

    Ricotta has more than five times the amount of Vitamin D than other cheeses. Pass us the cannelloni…

    Vitamin D foods: Ricotta with pasta

    How else can I get enough vitamin D?

    Sunshine is the main source of vitamin D (though make sure you use the best sun protection when you are soaking in those rare rays).

    But what about during the winter months in the UK? “Spending 20-30 minutes between 11am and 3pm in the sun each day from April to September should enable us to make enough vitamin D to meet our requirements,” says Wakeman. “But for the rest of the year, we have a much heavier reliance on dietary sources.”

    Symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, according to world-renowned dermatologist Dr. Howard Murad, includes fatigue, muscle pain and weakness, weight gain, poor concentration, restless sleep, and headaches.

    If you’re worried, your GP can do a blood test to check your levels.

    Does a Vitamin D deficiency affect your skin?

    Short answer: yes. Here, doctor Clare Morrison of MedExpress reveals the five signs that your skin might be calling out for more vitamin D.

    Dull complexion

    “Much like all organs, skin needs vital vitamins to function properly, and vitamin D is one of them. Vitamin D is primarily synthesised in skin which is exposed to UV light, if not achieved by diet or supplements. A dull complexion can be a sign of a lack of Vitamin D. Your complexion may appear slightly grey, your skin not as plump or supple as usual, and you may also have darker under eye circles, this is because the skin needs Vitamin D for the skin cells to regenerate properly and remain healthy.”

    Breakouts

    “Vitamin D can reduce inflammation on your skin, which therefore means fighting against skin condition such as acne and rosacea. Due to its action on your blood insulin response, your acne breakouts could be vastly improved too, this lowering of inflammation will also help with your general skin health too.”

    Fine lines

    “Vitamin D acts as an antioxidant, meaning that it’s able to help against fine lines and wrinkles. This vitamin helps your body to fight off free radicals which are thought to cause lines on our skin and the general deterioration that comes with age. A lack of vital vitamin D sources could mean our wrinkles become appear much deeper and more visible, a lack of vitamin D may also may mean that we develop new wrinkles at a much quicker rate.”

    Dry skin

    “One tell-tale skin sign of a vitamin D deficiency is dry, itchy skin on the face, which may occur all over or on areas such as cheeks, chin and forehead. In some severe cases, those with a deficiency may also develop eczema, this is thought to be caused by an immune system dysfunction. Studies have shown that vitamin D can be effective in its treatment whether the vitamin comes from direct sunlight, supplement or a topical skin application.”

    Sweating

    “A deficiency in vitamin D can cause your skin to sweat and is considered to be one of the first signs of a problem. You will sweat all over your body, including your face which can cause your skin to become dry and irritated, as well as increasing your chances of breakouts – so upping your vitamin D could help.”

    Vitamin D foods: A woman sweating

    Can Vitamin D boost fertility?

    Did you know? Sunlight can actually boost fertility, according to new research. The findings claim that vitamin D can balance sex hormones in women and further improve sperm count in men, with the conclusion suggesting some couples could be undergoing unnecessary and costly fertility treatments when spending time in the sunshine could prevent the need for them.

    The researchers at the Medical University of Graz in Austria found that women ovulate less and their eggs have a reduced chance of implanting in the womb in the winter months. “The vast majority of people in this country – around 86 per cent – are getting less than the optimum levels,” says Oliver Gillie, director of the Health Research Forum.

    Leading fertility expert, Zita West, agrees. “Vitamin D is becoming increasingly important for fertility,’ she says. ‘Having done over 800 vitamin D tests, we have found that around 70 per cent of our clients are deficient. Vitamin D deficiency is linked to obesity, polycystic ovaries and immune disorders.”

    Gullie advises couples trying to get pregnant to arrange a sunshine holiday or spend time in the garden this summer before going down the expensive route of IVF.

    Does Vitamin D affect the pill?

    Speaking about fertility, one study found that being on the contraceptive pill can increase your levels of vitamin D by up to 20%. It’s not as much as the 50% to 70% that a supplement offers, but is especially good news for women in the UK where, according to Public Health England, one in five British adults are not getting enough vitamin D due to the lack of bright sunshine here.

    This information is particularly important if you’re looking to conceive. If a woman already has low vitamin D levels, coming off the pill may cause a potentially harmful drop to an even lower level. Vitamin D is important for both you and your baby, as it’s needed for foetal skeletal growth so check with your doctor whether you need to take extra supplements and it’s worth considering upping your intake of the below Vitamin D foods, as well.

    Vitamin D foods: the pill

    Is there such a thing as having too much vitamin D?

    It’s rare. Consuming too much vitamin D is very rare. “It shouldn’t be a problem because your body only makes as much vitamin D as it needs,” says nutrition expert Wakeman.

    “Vitamin D toxicity is uncommon and usually only affects people who have been taking vitamin D supplements well above the recommended dosage for several months.”

    Am I at risk of Vitamin D deficiency?

    Mel Wakeman adds that in November 2014, NICE (the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) produced guidelines that recommend certain at-risk groups take a daily vitamin D supplement. These include:

    1. All pregnant and breastfeeding women are at risk of vitamin D deficiency.

    2. All babies and young children from 6 months to 5 yrs should take a daily supplement containing vitamin D in the form of vitamin drops. But, babies fed up to a pint of infant formula will not need vitamin drops as the formula is already fortified.

    3. Breastfed infants may need to receive drops containing vitamin D from one month of age, if their mother has not taken vitamin D supplements throughout pregnancy.

    4. People aged 65 years and over and people who are not exposed to much sun should also take a daily vitamin D supplement.

    5. People with a darker skin tone will require a greater amount of sunlight exposure as the process of making Vitamin D takes longer so may benefit from a supplement. Read out guide to the best skin supplements, as chosen by our beauty editor.

    6. People who spend much of their time indoors or cover their skin.

    Now, if you’ll excuse us – we’re off to stock up on vitamin D.

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