We look at 7 things you may not know about this vitamin.Surprise, surprise, December is officially the darkest, dreariest month in Ireland with just over seven hours of daylight and under two hours of average sunlight. Ok, so there is lots of artificial Christmas light to keep us happy but who doesn’t miss the feel of sun on skin? And it feels good for a reason - the body uses sunlight to create Vitamin D which is crucial to our health and wellbeing.Vitamin D is essential for our health and wellbeing

We all need to know more about this extraordinary ‘sunshine vitamin’ so here’s 7 fascinating facts: 1. We can it a vitamin but actually Vitamin D acts more like a hormone; the body makes vitamin D itself when exposed to sunshine. 2. Vitamin D is best known for its role in supporting the immune system as well as the maintenance of normal bones and muscle function. It also plays an important role in the absorption and utilisation of calcium and phosphorus plus it supports the process of cell division to name but a few! 3. Pale Northern European skin is a relatively modern mutation which lets us absorb more Vitamin D from less sunshine. Melanin, the naturally occurring pigment responsible for darker skin, blocks UVB rays. The palest people may get by with 15 minutes sunshine three times a week. Those with dark skin need 3-6 times more sunshine.

5. We can get Vitamin D from sunshine or food. Salmon and mackerel are best. Tuna and sardines have some Vitamin D while tofu, beef liver and egg yolks are reasonably good sources, as are fortified orange juice and milk. Most food however, has no vitamin D whatsoever. 6. Inuits, who live very far north in almost total winter darkness, eat Vitamin D-rich oily fish and seal and whale fat to survive. 7. Many Irish people are deficient. It’s easy to find out if you are. Ask your doctor about a blood test. 8. Vitamin D supplementation is ideal at this time of year to ensure you're getting enough. Choose a good quality supplement such as Cleanmarine which also comes with Omega 3 fatty acids for brain, eye and joint health. We should pop out for winter walks any chance we get. The fresh air and endorphins do us good - and who knows - the sun might even shine. Meanwhile, perhaps it’s time to start planning a sun holiday!