Otherwise known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, it’s important for promoting bone strength. But what are the other health benefits of vitamin D?

We need vitamin D for both bone growth and to prevent bones from becoming brittle. It does so by promoting calcium absorption, which in turn improves bone density and combats osteoporosis. It’s also one of the best supplements for muscle growth.

Vitamin D is also known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’ due to its ability to be absorbed by the body through sunlight – the main source of the vitamin.

What are the health benefits of vitamin D?

“Vitamin D is essential for strong bones, as well as normal levels of calcium and phosphorus absorption,” says nutritionist Milda Zolubaite. “This is necessary for proper nerve, muscle and immune system function.”

From a fitness perspective, it’s worth noting that vitamin D is just as important in improving muscle strength as bone strength.

Good levels of vitamin D can promote a healthy mind as well as a healthy body. “Recent research shows a link between vitamin D and mental health,” says Zolubaite. “Getting enough vitamin D through the winter months can help prevent and improve symptoms of seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and depression.”

Vitamin D is also known to support the immune system and fight inflammation. It supports oral health in the same way it does bone health – helping to lower the risk of cavities, tooth decay and gum disease.

There is evidence to suggest It may help prevent type 1 and type 2 diabetes, too. And vitamin D consumption – whether through vitamin D-rich foods or the best vitamin D supplements – has been linked with reducing the risk of suffering from multiple sclerosis, as well as helping with weight loss and treating hypertension.

Food rich in vitamin D on a table - including salmon, eggs, mushrooms and cheese

Oily fish, dairy products and mushrooms contain vitamin D, though only in small amounts

So, should you be taking vitamin D supplements?

Most of us get most of the vitamin D we need through sunlight. However, you may not get enough from the sun if you use sunscreen, have dark skin or live in an area with high pollution.

“Countries in the Northern Hemisphere get very little sunlight that is potent enough to help make vitamin D from October through to March,” says Zolubaite. “So it’s a good idea to get your vitamin D levels tested and take a vitamin D supplement if required.”

How much vitamin D do you need?

“Adults need around 10mcg or 400 iU of vitamin D daily and it can be naturally acquired through sunlight exposure,” says Zolubaite. Vitamin D is also naturally present in some foods like fatty fish, mushrooms, egg yolks and fortified milk products, although, those quantities are often low.”

It’s recommended that older adults, particularly those over 70, look to double this daily intake to up to 20mcg. This is to promote muscle strengthening to aid stability and avoid falls, and bone strengthening to avoid breaks in the event of a fall.