Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because most people get their fill directly from the sun – its UV rays trigger Vitamin D synthesis in the skin. Inside the body, Vitamin D helps build healthy bones by absorbing calcium and phosphorous; conversely, a deficiency can lead to soft, malformed bones (a condition known as rickets).
It is true that protecting the skin with sunscreen to prevent burning is essential, but short bursts of sun exposure to the hands, face and arms at least twice a week to boost Vitamin D is a good idea. Ten to 15 minutes before applying SPF 15 (or higher) will suffice and is not enough to burn. Meanwhile, this small span of time should ensure that the daily requirements of both children and adults are met (though those with darker skin tones may require longer sun exposure).
Shade lovers and those with limited sun opportunities should top up with dietary sources. Vitamin D is naturally present in oily fish, and a 50g serving of salmon, sardines or mackerel is enough to fill a child’s daily quota. Certain brands of fortified milk and enriched soybean milk – indicated on both Chinese and English nutrition panels with “D” or “D3” – are good sources as well; one cup satisfies 10 percent of the daily requirement. Egg yolks and fortified margarines are a modest source, and if none of these options are feasible, try fish liver oil or a combined calcium and Vitamin D supplement.
*Recommended Daily Value: 200 International Units (IU); 400 IU for pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers