Food for Thought: vitamin D

Although we live in a region blessed with what seems like endless hours of sunshine, vitamin D is too often found to be at dangerously low levels, even in the sunny UAE. One of the main functions of this vitamin is to enable the body to absorb calcium, making it an essential nutrient for bone and joint health. Without it, even with very high levels of calcium in your diet or supplement programme, bones are at risk of weakening, leading to conditions such as osteoporosis.

Rates of osteoporosis among women here are very high, with a 2009 study revealing that one in three women in the UAE is at risk. Unfortunately, vitamin D is often overlooked in favour of the directly associated bone-building nutrients such as calcium.

Vitamin D is one of the easiest nutrients to get, with sunlight the prime source. Just 20 minutes every day is sufficient to get your daily dose. This could be split into two 10-minute sessions of experiencing sunlight directly on your skin without sunscreen. During this part of the year, it's best to get exposure in the morning and again in the late afternoon. And it does not have to be the whole body; just exposing arms and legs can do wonders to raise levels.

If you do resort to supplementation then vitamin D3 has been found to be most effective for absorption. According to the USDA Nutrient Database, the best food sources are fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, and eggs.

Laura Holland is a well-being consultant and nutritional therapist. For more information, go to


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