As spring is well underway here in London, the lovely, warming spring sunshine that invites us all to out outside and frolic in the fresh spring air, again lifts us in spirits and energy levels. Well, maybe not frolic, but certainly to enjoy being out and about more than in the dead of winter. The added sunlight is a cheer me up, but also a great source of vitamin D. Which our bodies need to keep our bones, muscles and teeth healthy – but only together with calcium and phosphorus, will the body be able to keep up this important maintenance work.
So the sunshine, together with a calcium and phosphorus rich diet, can keep your body safe from osteomalacia and damaging falls – but how do you know you’re getting enough of this powerful trio?
As these vitamins work in close collaboration with each other, it makes sense to cover them together – so that it’s easier to combine sources to ensure better balance in the body.
For vitamin D, aim to go outside for 15 minutes, two or three times a week between 11am and 3pm without sunscreen should be enough to produce sufficient vitamin D, but only between April and September as during the winter months, the sunlight isn’t strong enough to produce vitamin D through the skin this far up north. So during the winter months, all adults and children over 1 should consider taking a supplement containing 10 micrograms of vitamin D each day.
Food sources of vitamin D include:
oily fish, such as salmon and sardines
eggs and milk
fortified foods, such as some cereals, margarine, some oat, rice and soy milks
Phosphorus is also an essential nutrient, required for bone health, strong bones and teeth, proper functioning of cells, regulation of calcium, and for making ATP (a molecule which provides energy to our cells). It can be found in many food items, but is especially high in animal proteins, also found in dairy products, nuts and seeds as well as whole grains and legumes. Adults need 550mg of phosphorus a day.
Food sources of phosphorus include:
sunflower and pumpkin seeds
nuts (cashews, almonds and pine nuts)
Many processed foods also contain phosphate additives that are used to enhance the taste or texture or prolong shelf life.
Calcium has many functions in the body, beyond just the bones and teeth – it also maintains a healthy communication between the brain and other parts of the body. So quite an important mineral, I’d say! The current calcium recommendation is 700mg per day for adults. Calcium is found naturally in many foods and is also added to certain food products.
Food sources of calcium include:
green leafy vegetables, such as cabbage and broccoli (not spinach though)
soya beans and soya drinks with added calcium
nuts and seeds (such as almonds, chia and sesame seeds)
milk, cheese and other dairy foods
So, as you can see from the list above, there are plenty vegan sources of calcium to choose from, along with the more traditional dairy products. Perhaps unreasonably surprising sources are the dried figs and sea buckthorn.
Hopefully this helps you realise, that by eating a varied diet and combining ingredients, you can easily get lots of colours, vitamin and minerals as well as tastes and textures into your meals.
These vitamins and minerals work tirelessly in your body to keep it functioning at it’s best and therefore ensuring you have a steady inflow of the foods that will keep your frame solid, is important work.
To top up on all three of these nutrients, make yourself a long, tasty smoothie with a few scoops of sea buckthorn (for calcium and phosphorus) and cashews (for phosphorus) and fortified yogurt or milk (for calcium and vitamin D), banana (for sweetness) and enjoy it in the lovely, warming spring sunshine!