Vitamin D plays an essential role in the immune system by interfering with the majority of the immune system's cells. There is extensive evidence supporting the actions of vitamin D in immunity and inflammation.
Supporting your vitamin D levels
Vitamin D - known as the “sunshine vitamin” is synthesized by our bodies when exposed to sunlight. Getting vitamin D from the sun is the most natural and efficient way to meet your body’s needs.
It is important to note that the process of vitamin D synthesis through sun exposure can vary depending on factors such as exposure to sun, sunscreen use, the latitude at which someone lives and skin tone, as those with naturally darker skin have a 6x higher risk for a vitamin D deficiency.
While sunlight is an excellent source of vitamin D, it is essential to practice safe sun exposure.
dminder is a vitamin D tracking app that allows you to safely track vitamin D exposure from the sun by location and skin type.
And whilst sunlight is an excellent source of vitamin D, it’s not the only source. If you are unable to get sufficient sun exposure due to various factors including geographical location or lifestyle, you can also obtain vitamin D from dietary sources and supplements to ensure optimal levels.
When it comes to maintaining optimal health, proper nutrition plays a crucial role. While sunlight remains the most natural and efficient source of vitamin D, certain foods can provide significant amounts of this essential nutrient.
Vitamin D3 vs D2
Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) found in animal-sourced foods
Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) found in plant and most fortified foods
Some excellent dietary sources of vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish: Salmon, mackerel, sardines
- Beef liver: Freeze-dried, whole-food beef liver is found in our Norish product range and provides an easy nutrient-rich addition to meals. It’s simple to prepare and the freeze dried technology retains the nutrients found in whole foods.
- Egg yolks: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin and egg yolks naturally contain a moderate amount of fat. And because vitamin D is synthesized in the skin when exposed to sunlight, hens that are allowed outdoor access produce eggs with higher vitamin D content. This is another reason why it is beneficial (and important to your health) to buy pasture-raised eggs.
- Mushrooms: You can actually increase the vitamin D content of mushrooms with the simple process of sunning them. Sunning mushrooms is a unique method used to increase their vitamin D synthesis when exposed to sunlight. The process converts a compound called ergosterol present in mushrooms into vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol). Additionally, as pointed out earlier, it is worth noting that the vitamin D2 synthesized in mushrooms is not as readily absorbed by the body as vitamin D3 from animal source or sunlight exposure on the skin.
Recipe: Salmon and dill risotto with crispy capers
This recipe contains salmon and freeze-dried liver which are both naturally rich sources of vitamin D. It’s also a comforting meal packed full of flavour.
- 4 cups boiling water
- 2 TBSP NORISH meal booster
- 2 TBSP NORISH bone broth
- 150g arborio rice
- ¼ cup white wine (optional)
- 1 leek finely diced
- Olive oil
- 1 large salmon steak
- 1 lemon juiced
- 100g baby spinach
- 2 TBSP sour cream
- 50g rocket
- Preheat oven to 180C and line an oven tray with baking paper. Bring a kettle to the boil. Add measure of boiling water to a jug add the NORISH Meal Booster + Bone Broth, mix well until dissolved, set aside (this will be the stock for the risotto)
- Place salmon on a lined oven tray and bake until cooked and just heated through. Once cooked gently flake salmon away from the skin in large pieces and discard the skin. Set aside for serving.
- Heat oil in a pot on medium heat. Add leek and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until soft. Add rice and cook, stirring to coat rice for about 1-2 minutes. Add wine and cook until absorbed.
- Reduce heat to low-medium and add the stock (Meal Booster + Bone Broth), about ½ cup at a time only adding more stock once the previous addition has been absorbed. Continue this, stirring often or until grains are tender and risotto is a porridge-like consistency.
- While this is cooking, heat oil in a frypan on medium heat. Add capers and cook for about 2 minutes until crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside for serving.
- To finish, once risotto is cooked, add spinach, sour cream and half the lemon juice. Mix well until creamy. Season to taste with salt and pepper
- Toss the rocket in a bowl with the remaining lemon juice
- Spoon risotto into bowls and top with salmon, rocket and capers
Unless regularly consuming a diet high in vitamin D sources of food and/or getting sufficient sun exposure supplementing may be required. However, a blood test would best determine and confirm adequate levels.
Supplementing with vitamin D3 is effective and inexpensive. It’s important to understand though that vitamin D3 is a fat-soluble vitamin which means it requires fat to be properly utilized. Therefore, if supplementing with vitamin D3, a liquid or gel capsule with shelf-stable fat is recommended.
Although technically not a supplement, cod-liver oil is a rich food source of both vitamin D and Vitamin A. There are some great flavoured (and more pleasant tasting) options on the market. It’s convenient in that a 1-2 TSP daily dose will provide you with your recommended vitamin D intake.
Final note on immunity
Vitamin D, as an essential nutrient, is just one component of a healthy immune system. Other factors such as your general health and wellbeing, lifestyle, sleep, stress management, movement and coming at it from a holistic approach will all contribute to overall immune health.