Why is vitamin D important for bone health, and is it easy to get enough in foods?

Why is vitamin D important for bone health, and is it easy to get enough in foods?

Vitamin D is vital for everyone for strong bones and it may protect against heart disease and cancer (Food Safety Authority of Ireland). It is both a nutrient (a fat-soluble vitamin) found naturally in only a few foods and it is a hormone too. Vitamin D helps us absorb the mineral, calcium. We can make this hormone through the action of strong sunlight on our skin, according to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland “most people in Ireland do not get enough vitamin D. The sunlight is too weak from October to March and people need to protect themselves against strong summer sunlight to prevent skin cancer”. 

That is why we need to eat vitamin d-rich foods and/or take a vitamin D supplement.  

Dietary Sources of Vitamin D

Very few foods are naturally good sources of Vitamin D. Oily fish including salmon and mackerel are the best sources. Choosing trout, mackerel or salmon twice a week provides most people with half of their weekly vitamin D needs. 

  • A serving of trout (150g) contains 600IU of vitamin D
  • A serving of mackerel (150g) contains 520IU of vitamin D
  • A serving of salmon (150g) contains 480IU of vitamin D
  • A serving of tuna (150g) contains 180IU of vitamin D
  • A tin of sardines (100g) contains 200IU of vitamin D
  • One egg contains almost 80IU of vitamin D

Tips to boost your vitamin D intake 

Try including a Fishy Friday in your week and enjoy regular family dishes such as salmon bake trays, herring and mackerel in chowders and fish pies. 

Choose tinned fish for lunch such as smashed sardines on sourdough toast.

Choose a fortified breakfast cereal with a fortified milk. There is a growing number of fortified foods containing vitamin D so check the food label to see if vitamin D has been added to a particular product.

  • A serving (200ml) of fortified milk contains 160IU of vitamin D
  • A serving (200ml) of fortified cereal flakes contains up to 100IU of vitamin D

Consider a blood test and supplementation with your doctor if you can’t meet your intake through diet alone. If there is inadequate calcium and vitamin D in your diet, supplementation is necessary especially when vitamin D is inadequate (Irish Osteoporosis Society). 

Note; In postmenopausal women and older men (>50 years) at increased risk of fracture, vitamin D deficiency should be avoided with the use of supplements (800-1000IU cholecalciferol daily) if necessary (NOGG 2017). 

Date of Preparation: February 2022