A while back now, during a routine blood test, it was spotted that Neil’s Vitamin D levels were lower than recommended. This is quite common for people living in the UK, as it is the only vitamin that is practically impossible to get enough of through diet alone. Our bodies produce the majority of vitamin D we need from exposure to sunlight. And as we don’t often get a lot of sunlight in Britain, this is a common problem. A recent study suggests that approximately 1 in 5 British people have lower than recommended levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is important as it helps to control the levels of calcium and phosphate in our bodies. These are needed for the growth and maintenance of healthy bones, teeth and muscles. A deficiency of vitamin D can lead to low bone density and other musculoskeletal problems. It is common for vitamin D levels to drop over the autumn and winter months as between October and March the sun in Britain is not strong enough for our bodies to produce it. As a result of this the government now recommends that we all should consider taking a vitamin D supplement during these months to keep our levels topped up.
It was however August when we noticed that Neil’s levels were low. This is possibly as a result of him doing the majority of his training indoors, either in the gym, on the velodrome or on a turbo trainer. This means his exposure to sunlight is very much reduced. As I follow a very similar training pattern to Neil, I realised that I was also at risk. I would prefer to get as much of my nutrition from natural sources rather than supplements. So I began to research what foods would be best to include in our diet to maximise our intake of vitamin D.
Adding Vitamin D to your Diet
Vitamin D is found naturally in oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks. Also some cereals and fat spreads are fortified with it. As oily fish, red meat and eggs are all very good sources of protein, as well as omega-3 fatty acids in oily fish and iron in red meat, I began to look for ways to increase these in our diet.
At least once a week we will now have tinned mackerel for lunch. I generally will make it in to a wrap. I buy the small 125g tins, and have tried several of the flavours, but my favourite is the Princes Brazilian mackerel. To make the wrap is really easy. Simply empty and spread the contents of a 125g tin of mackerel on to the middle of a tortilla wrap. Sprinkle over a handful of salad leaves and some slices of cucumber. Roll the tortilla up and eat.
Another lunch I have experimented with is a mackerel frittata. To feed 2 people you will need:
- 4 eggs,
- 1 large 190 g tin of mackerel, drain off any excess oil.
- Handful spinach, or a few sliced mushrooms, or a couple of chopped up tomatoes depending on your preference.
Simply heat a small frying pan over a medium heat using a splash of oil. Break and whisk the eggs in a bowl before adding them to the pan. Sprinkle over the mackerel and choice of vegetables and leave to set. Once the sides start to solidify transfer the pan to the grill to set the top of the frittata for a couple of minutes. Serve with some toast or a bagel to make sure you get a balanced meal of carbohydrate as well as fat and protein.
Other good options to try are tinned sardines on toast, or tinned salmon mixed with pasta and salad. These are all simple, cheap and healthy ways to increase vitamin D levels through diet. However this still might not be enough to achieve healthy levels of vitamin D and a supplement may be required. Some people produce vitamin D better than others. Those with darker skin tones, or people who do not expose their skin very often or get outside a lot will really struggle. For more information on vitamin D and how to supplement safely visit nhs guidelines.
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