Sarah Keogh MSc. BSc. Dip. MINDI

Sarah is the founder of Eatwell and has over 20 years’ experience working in nutrition and dietetics. Sarah has a degree in Human Nutrition and Dietetics from Trinity College, Dublin and a Masters in European Food Regulation. Sarah works with food companies on food legislation and product development as well as delivering workplace wellness sessions and nutrition courses. Sarah is an outstanding speaker on nutrition whether she is delivering a nutrition session or speaking on radio & television.

Recent headlines have claimed that a supplement of vitamin D may help protect against the coronavirus – but is there any truth to the reports?

Vitamin D is famous for helping to keep our bones healthy. But it’s vitamin D’s impact on immunity that is grabbing the headlines. The report came from the Irish-run TILDA study which looks at the health of older people in Ireland. This study found that older people who were deficient in vitamin D were more likely to have respiratory infections compared with people who had good levels of vitamin D.

Vitamin D deficiency is common in Ireland, mainly due to our ongoing lack of sunshine. We should make vitamin D when the sun shines on our skin – but lack of sun means we can struggle make all the vitamin D we need. Although we can get some vitamin D from food, it is difficult to get the full amount. It is even more difficult for older people to have healthy levels. As we get older, it is harder for our bodies to turn sunlight into vitamin D. The TILDA study found that 27% of people aged over 70 were deficient in vitamin D and this jumped to 47% of people aged over 85.

Who is at risk of being deficient in vitamin D?

Older people are the most likely to be deficient but people who are inactive, obese or who smoke are also at higher risk.

Food which Vitamin D can be found in

Where can we find vitamin D?

Foods that are good sources of vitamin D include:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Mackerel
  • Sardines
  • Eggs
  • However, even those these foods contain vitamin D, it is difficult to eat enough of them to get all of the vitamin D we need. For example, we would have to eat 16 eggs per week to get all of our vitamin D (not something we recommend!).

This is why a supplement is so important. And not just for our immune systems. Vitamin D is essential in helping us to absorb calcium and to keep bones strong and healthy. We also use vitamin D to maintain strong, healthy, muscles.

Try our Griddled Marinated Salmon with Spinach, packed full of Omega-3 and Vitamin D. The perfect immune boosting dinner.

Vitamin D found in Cod Liver Oil

How much vitamin D do we need?

We need 10 micrograms of vitamin D everyday. This can be taken as a tablet and cod liver oil is a really good source. Lots of foods have vitamin D added – you can look for milk that is fortified with vitamin D (including some brands of soya or almond milk) and some breads and cereals are also fortified.

Zinc, Vitamin C found in nuts and seeds

Is there anything else we can do for our immune system?

Zinc, selenium and vitamin C are all important nutrients for immunity. You will find zinc and selenium in all kinds of nuts and seeds as well as fish like mackerel, salmon and sardines. Vitamin C is found in large amounts in fruit and vegetables. Aim to get 5-7 servings per day and you will have all you need.

Our Spicy Pumpkin Seeds are a great way to introduce seeds into your meals, sprinkle them on top of soup or in a salad or enjoy them alone as a healthy snack.

Should we take supplements?

A general multivitamin and mineral supplement that has a little of everything is probably the best choice. Unless someone has been advised by a CORU Registered dietitian or by their doctor, it is best to avoid taking large doses of single vitamins for long periods. Do remember that a supplement is a supplement to a healthy diet: it is not instead-of a healthy diet. Even if you take a supplement, you do need to have a varied and balanced diet as well.

So will Vitamin D help prevent or treat Covid 19? We don’t know. The virus has not been around long enough for us to have studied the impact of vitamin D. However, vitamin D is needed for a healthy immune system and healthy bones so – coronavirus or not – we all need to get our daily vitamin D.

For more top tips and immune boosting recipes, login/sign up to US! online.

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