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vital vitamins – D

vital vitamins – D

By Sian Porter, Merchant Gourmet Consultant nutritionist, registered dietitian

Vitamins, alongside minerals (think iron, calcium, magnesium etc.) are known as micronutrients as they are needed in the body in tiny amounts, either milligrams (mg=one thousandth of a gram) or micrograms (μg=one thousandth of a milligram). Although small, they are mighty, playing key roles in growth and repair, helping to keep you healthy and your body functioning well.  Vitamins are essential nutrients which we need to get from food but unlike fat, carbohydrate or protein they provide no calories.

Vitamins can be divided into two types – water soluble (those that dissolve in water) which include the B vitamins and vitamin C and fat soluble vitamins (those that require fat to be absorbed) which include vitamin A, D, E and K.   Water soluble vitamins cannot be stored in the body to any great extent so foods containing them have to be eaten on a regular basis. Water soluble vitamins not needed are passed out in the urine. Fat soluble vitamins can be stored in body fat. For example, vitamin D made in the summer can be stored for the winter.

For safe and effective amounts of vitamins rather like the three bears porridge for Goldilocks, the aim is not too much, not too little but ‘just right’. This ‘just right’ is provided for most people by a healthy balanced diet with variety and plenty of fruit and vegetables, some wholegrains, some lean protein including beans and lentils and some healthy fats.

A diet lacking in vitamins over time could lead to low levels and eventually deficiency although this is very rare in the UK. At certain ages such as babies and older people or for certain conditions such as pregnancy, or diseases such as coeliac disease, or if following a vegan diet, some people may need more or less of certain vitamins. These groups may need to take supplements as well as eating a healthy balanced diet. Seek and follow the advice of a healthcare professional or official advice.

Food comes as a package so supplements will never be able to replace how vitamins are present in a variety of whole food. Tempting though it can be, especially with so many supplements on offer that you are constantly told you need, it’s not a case enough is good but more is better or that you even need them. Too much, too often of a food such as liver or too high a dose of supplements could result in too high an intake which can be toxic (poisonous) to the body and/or lead to side effects which interfere with body functions. Storing food correctly and cooking food in certain ways such as microwaving or steaming or stir-frying can help preserve the vitamins and prevent loss from exposure to air, heat or light and loss into water.

Vitamin D

There is a lot of interest at the moment in Vitamin D but there is no evidence that Vitamin D reduces the risk of coronavirus. Vitamins D has a key role in the normal function of the immune system and in bone, tooth and muscle health. Known as the sunshine vitamin as the action of sunlight on skin outdoors produces vitamin D in the body. Unfortunately in the UK sunshine is only able to do this from April to September so over the winter we need to rely on body stores and foods containing vitamin D. There are few foods that contain vitamin D. The best source is oily fish such as salmon, sardines, mackerel. Other sources include eggs (in the yolk), red meat, some mushrooms, and fortified products such as spreads, yogurts and breakfast cereal. As we are all going outside less and it is difficult to get enough vitamin D from food alone, Government advice is for all adults and children over five years of age to consider taking a daily supplement of 10 micrograms of vitamin D. Other age groups should follow current government guidelines . Everyone if at all possible should try and spend some time outside daily in the sun whilst being sun safe and avoiding burning.

For those following a plant-based diet, very few foods contain vitamin D with oily fish being by far and away the richest source with small amounts in egg yolks, liver, red meat and some mushrooms (milk in the UK is NOT fortified with vitamin D unlike other countries). The other main dietary source is fortified foods such as spreads, cereals, yogurts and dairy alternatives such as soya ‘milk’.

Vitamin D-enhanced mushrooms (from UV light – either sunshine or lamp) are the only non-animal food product with substantial amounts of bioavailable vitamin D and therefore have the potential to be a primary source of dietary vitamin D for vegans and vegetarians. Vegans are advised to take a vitamin D supplement daily and to choose foods fortified with vitamin D including dairy alternatives.

For vitamin D food inspiration take a look at these yummy recipes, make sure to use Vitamin D enhanced mushrooms in these recipes to ensure you’re fully covered!


Lentil & Mushroom Burger

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Balsamic Mushrooms &  Tomatoey Lentil Avo Smash

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Porcini Mushroom Tortilla

Porcini mushroom tortilla,


Wild Mushroom and Beluga Lentil Stew with Creamy Polenta

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By Sian Porter, Merchant Gourmet Consultant nutritionist, registered dietitian

Sian Porter Merchant Gourmet Nutritionist, merchant Gourmet, Nutritionist