How to get vitamin D in winter

Did you know that vitamin D is just as important as vitamin C when it comes to your immune system? All-star dietitian, Dr Joanna McMillan discusses the surprising ways you can get vitamin D into your diet to boost immunity. 

‘Immunity’ or ‘immune system’ tends to become a bit of a buzz word around winter, but it’s really something we should all be focusing on year-round. Whether that’s supercharging your immune system through diet, more ‘outside of the box’ ideas to boost your immunity or, everyday habits to keep your body happy and healthy.

It’s important that we understand the benefits of having a healthy, balanced immune system and findings uncovered by research from Australian Eggs have shown that a third of Australians are not concerned about immunity. Immunity should be on everyone’s agenda all year round and not just in the cooler months.

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Let’s talk about vitamin D and Immunity

We all know vitamin C as the go-to when we’re trying to up our health game but what about vitamin D or the sunshine vitamin as it is otherwise known? New research has found that 45% of Australians don’t understand the benefit of vitamin D for immunity, yet it is actually an unsung hero when it comes to strengthening our immune system.

While vitamin C is also essential for adequate immune responses, its actions are different than that of vitamin D. We know that there are vitamin D receptors on our immune cells, so they are key in strengthening our immune system’s responses.

A lack of vitamin D increases susceptibility to infection and having sufficient vitamin D has been shown to reduce inflammation and consequently lesson the severity of symptoms when or if you become unwell with a cold or flu.

What is in an egg?

While getting out into the sun is one way to up your vitamin D intake, this isn’t always so easy during winter. This is when food comes into play so it’s important to be aware of what food staples do, and eggs are at the top of that list.

Eggs are one of the highest natural food sources of vitamin D with a serve of 2 eggs able to provide 82% of your adequate vitamin D intake. Eggs are also easy to get into your diet, are cost effective and they deliver a whole bunch of other vitamins, minerals, carotenoids, protein and good fats at the same time.

Research from Australian Eggs found that 98% of Australians don’t know that a serve of eggs has over 80% of their adequate intake of vitamin D and may be overlooking the easiest way to look after their immunity.

For those more conscious about eating eggs every day, while eggs have in the past been controversial largely due to a misunderstanding of how dietary cholesterol affects our blood cholesterol levels, more recent research shows that eggs tend to raise our good cholesterol levels and consuming eggs does not raise the risk of cardiovascular disease. Our Australian Dietary Guidelines state that up to 7 eggs a week is safe and nutritious for those with existing health problems while there are no limits on the number of eggs that can be enjoyed as part of a healthy diet for others.

How to strengthen your immunity with eggs

  1. Eggs are a particularly good food source of vitamin D and they can boost your overall nutrition, particularly if you have them instead of less nutritious highly processed foods (like those common at breakfast).
  2. Swap a sugary, low fibre breakfast cereal for boiled eggs with avocado on wholegrain or wholemeal toast.
  3. If you usually have vegemite toast for breakfast, add some sliced tomato, handful of rocket or spinach and 2 poached eggs.
  4. Instead of snacking on biscuits or a muffin, have a sliced hard-boiled egg on wholegrain crackers & sliced tomato.
  5. Swap the ham in sandwiches for eggs with a little olive oil mayo.

Dr Joanna McMillan originally hails from Scotland, and came to Australia in 1999, where she won a scholarship to complete her PhD in Nutrition Science at The University of Sydney. As a dietitian and former fitness instructor, she is driven by a passion to promote the influence that diet and lifestyle have on our health and wellbeing. She is a published author, an international speaker and regular on our TV screens, including being the host for the Gut Revolution series on ABC Catalyst.