The sunshine vitamin

Avoiding the sun may be great for your complexion, but it could be wreaking havoc on your vitamin D levels. Editor Trudi Brewer discovers the sun-safe way to top up this bone-building nutrient.

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You know that vitamin A is the gold standard in anti-ageing skincare and that topping up with vitamin C gives your immune system a boost, but are you familiar with the powers of vitamin D – and more importantly, could you be deficient in this essential nutrient?

What is vitamin D?

Vitamin D is important for maintaining good overall health and strong bones. It also helps ensure your muscles, heart, lungs and brain function well. Vitamin D is sometimes called the 'sunshine vitamin' because our bodies naturally make it when our skin is exposed to sunlight. Some foods also contain vitamin D, including oily fish, dairy products and eggs.

Who needs it?

Everyone needs vitamin D for optimal health, but if you have naturally very dark skin, kidney or liver disease, or you avoid the sun, you may be at higher risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency. Using sunscreen may also limit the amount of vitamin D our bodies can make (although that's not a reason to stop using it!).

What are the signs of vitamin D deficiency?

In New Zealand, around 5 per cent of adults are deficient in vitamin D, and a further 27 per cent are below the recommended blood level. Adults who don't make enough vitamin D can develop bone weakness and increased risk of fracture, so having enough vitamin D is especially important for post-menopausal women, who are at higher risk of brittle bone diseases like osteoporosis.

How can I increase my vitamin D?

Sensible sun exposure is the best way to ensure your body is making enough vitamin D – a 20-30 minute walk (avoiding the hottest part of the day) three times a week is an excellent place to start. You should always wear sun protection to lower your risk of developing skin cancer, but because this may limit the amount of vitamin D you make, a daily nutritional supplement is a great way to top up your levels. Try these supplements from Swisse.

Try these supplements from Swisse

Swisse Calcium + Vitamin D

Swisse Ultiboost Calcium + Vitamin D, $26.

Calcium is essential for healthy bones and teeth and vitamin D assists in the absorption of this crucial mineral. Today, so few foods naturally contain vitamin D, and we are all so sun savvy that few of us get regular exposure to sunlight, with that in mind you may need a supplement.


Swisse Ultiboost Vitamin D, $14.

While healthy bones and teeth are the result of a daily dose of vitamin D, this naturally derived supplement also supports muscle strength, and helps boosts a healthy immune system.