One thing above all: 80 percent about the need for vitamin D, a group of fat-soluble prohormones consisting of 5 different vitamins (D1, D2, D3, D4 and D5), we get from the exposure daily in the sun. The rest from feeding. In recent years, prolonged confinement indoors due to a pandemic and the consequent adaptation of lifestyles has compromised its correct intake. We’re not just talking about the elderly who, physiologically, tend to go out less. But of the entire population: 70 percent of Italians do not have enough. The issue is serious: in the long run, the vitamin D deficit can, in fact, translate into important disorders and pathologies given that the good health of our body also passes through here. If we don’t take enough of them, the specialists remind us, we could run into the so-called «diseases of civilization»: cardiovascular disorders, diabetes, autoimmune diseases, in extreme cases even cancer. The Covid emergency has passed, we are slowly returning to normal. And the season, with the weather starting to stabilize, is propitious. Being outdoors as much as possible allows us to store the right amount. The rest we will recover from the power supply. Francesca Beretta, nutritionist biologist and author of two books — Down the belly and Down the belly… cheer up! She — she explains to us how.
Doctor, why is vitamin D so essential?
“Because it performs many functions. For example, it favors the absorption of mineral salts – calcium and phosphorus above all – introduced thanks to what we eat. It also regulates calcium levels in the blood, allows the correct functioning of the skeletal system, optimizes that of the central nervous system, muscles and heart”.
What, on the other hand, does its deficiency entail?
«In the developmental age it can favor rickets, in adults and the elderly instead osteomalacia or bone fragility. Not a remote possibility considering that vitamin D deficiency in Italy is very common, especially in winter. The advice is to keep it monitored through blood tests, after consulting your doctor. Do-it-yourself, I always stress, is never allowed».
What is the main source of vitamin D?
“The sun. It happens that our body, starting from cholesterol, synthesizes it at the skin level through a reaction that occurs following exposure to sunlight. It is therefore important to spend at least half an hour a day outdoors, with appropriate protection factors. The exposure time, then, varies from the phototype.
However, we also find vitamin D in food, so it is advisable to take care to include them daily in the diet ».
What should we eat?
The foods richest in vitamin D areCod liver oil and the so-called fatty fish: mackerel, salmon, tuna, anchovies, trout, herring, sturgeon to name a few. Fish, however, which have a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids, such as Omega 3. The latter are used to contain high triglycerides, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, Alzheimer’s, asthma and attention -hyperactivity. Other foods rich in vitamin D, albeit to a lesser extent, are also the egg yolk, mushrooms, meat and dairy products. Finally, fortified foods deserve mention, i.e. those foods, such as breakfast cereals, in which vitamin D is not naturally present or is present in low quantities, which is why it is added.
To prepare for summer, the time of year when we are more exposed to UV rays and synthesize more vitamin D, it is advisable to gradually increase the consumption of foods rich in this vitamin, taking care to alternate the different foods. The variety at the table makes the difference and it should become a habit. On the one hand, in fact, it allows you to take on all the nutrients functional to the good health of the organism. In other words, the more diversified it is, the greater the possibility of naturally having a balanced and healthy diet. On the other hand, it allows you not to get bored with food. Always eating the same thing in the long run leads to facing the dish reluctantly ».
Any practical examples?
«It would be good to consume salmon or mackerel at least once a week. Then a couple of eggs. No more: they are also rich in cholesterol, they should be eaten in moderation. Fish should be alternated with meat, preferring the white one: chicken, turkey, guinea fowl, rabbit. Then, once a week, without exceeding the quantities, it is possible to consume beef, which also contains vitamin D. Furthermore, from time to time I recommend adding a small portion of cheese, always without exceeding because they are rich in fat ».
Doctor, a prescription based on vitamin D?
«Steamed salmon with couscous and fennel salad. Very simple, healthy and, last but not least, fast: in 24 minutes she is ready.
For 4 people you will need: • 145 g of pre-cooked couscous • 200 ml of vegetable broth • 4 salmon steaks (about 150 g each, without skin and without bones) • 2 small fennel • mixed aromatic herbs (chives, basil, coriander, parsley) • black sesame seeds • 1/2 lime • extra virgin olive oil • salt and pepper Bring the broth to the boil.
Put the couscous in a baking dish, season it with 1 tablespoon of oil and mix. Cover with the boiling broth, mix well and seal the dish with a sheet of transparent film. Let it rest for 5-6 minutes, until the broth has been completely absorbed, then remove the film and shell the couscous with a fork. Place the salmon in a steamer basket covered with a sheet of baking paper. Steam for 4 minutes with the lid on, then turn the steaks on the other side, cover and let them rest away from the heat. Prepare an emulsion with 4 tablespoons of oil, lime juice, salt and pepper, mixing the ingredients well in a small jar. Peel and cut the fennel into thin slices and season with a part of the lime emulsion. Arrange a few tablespoons of couscous, the aromatic herbs, a handful of fennel and the still warm salmon steaks on 4 plates. Season with the rest of the emulsion, a sprinkling of pepper and decorate with the seeds».
And a weekly menu?
«Below, by way of example, a varied regimen that can help us increase the level of vitamin D and prepare for summer. That said, remember that any diet should always be undertaken only after consulting a specialist. He will be the one to cut it to measure based on the characteristics of the patient.
A suggestion: it would be advisable to keep the meal times fixed with breakfast from 7 to 8, snacks from 10 to 11, lunch from 12 to 13.30, snacks at 16.30 and, finally, dinner at 20 .
Breakfast, Monday to Thursday: 1 cup of unsweetened tea / herbal tea (or with added fructose). Alternatively, a vegetable drink with hazelnuts or almonds with a spoonful of oat bran and 1 spoonful of pollen, recommended in times of severe stress.
Mid-morning snack: 1 large seasonal fruit or 2 small ones
Breakfast, from Friday to Sunday: 3 rusks or wholemeal/rye toast with fruit jam with no added sugar/honey. The savory alternative (no more than twice a week): 1 seasonal fruit of your choice or a freshly squeezed orange juice.
Mid-morning snack: 30 grams of dried fruit in rotation: walnuts/lupins/hazelnuts
— Monday: salad + seeds + zucchini soup with buckwheat or chickpea porridge
— Tuesday: lamb’s lettuce/endive + seeds + plaice/hake or roast chicken or veal fillet in foil
— Wednesday: carrots/zucchini + seeds + wholemeal penne with chickpeas or spelled with escarole cream
— Thursday: fennel + seeds +roasted chicken or turkey salad or wholemeal fusilli pasta with cabbage
— Friday: mixed salad/Julienne carrots/green beans + cod or oatmeal soup with cannellini beans, peas and carrots
— Saturday: chard/cabbage + seeds + risotto with saffron and sole or steamed salmon with couscous and fennel salad
— Sunday: as desired
Snackfrom Monday to Sunday: 1 large seasonal fruit, varying
— Monday: cabbage/broccoli + seeds + grilled swordfish or tuna + raw carrots
— Tuesday: fennel/carrots + seeds + chicken with apple and fennel salad with 50 grams of boiled potatoes
— Wednesday: mixed grilled vegetables + omelette with vegetables + peas
— Thursday: spinach/Brussels sprouts + seeds + sole/cod/hake with 50 grams of boiled potatoes
— Friday: courgettes + seeds + quinoa with broccoli and hazelnuts
— Saturday: cream of leeks and beets + grilled sliced beef
— Sunday: mixed grilled vegetables or mixed salad + bean medallions and escarole salad
One caveat: following the suggested order is important. I also remind you that it is necessary to take 200 grams of the proposed vegetables before starting the meal (indicative value for an adult of 180 cm in height) ».