What is Vitamin D?
Vitamin D is different than the other types of vitamins, since it is a fat-soluble vitamin. The reason it is different is because the human body can make most of this vitamin as per the need with exposure to sunlight. Vitamin D is known to act as a pro-hormone, since it has an effect on the balancing of the hormones along with regulation of the immune system in the body. This vitamin is very well identified to play a major role in calcium absorption into the bones. If an individual suffers from vitamin D deficiency, then it would result in the bones turning soft or weakening of the bones, which is also called rickets or bone abnormality.
Vitamin D is known to help in the replication of cells, thus playing an important role in the autoimmune conditions development.
Deficiency of Vitamin D
A deficiency of vitamin D is linked with the following symptoms one should make note of:
Those individuals who reside in the northern regions where there is little to no exposure to sunlight are more prone to suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. Apart from this, individuals who are on the darker side, those on low fat diets, and people who take steroids and weight loss drugs are also more susceptible to suffer from the deficiency.
Foods Rich in Vitamin D
Below are the foods that are rich sources of vitamin D:
- Cod liver oil
- Raw milk
Let’s look at few of these vitamin D foods in more detail:
- Cheese: Cheese is something which is loved by all. Cheese is a food that can provide more than enough satisfaction. Also, it has been rated as one of the top foods that is high in vitamin D. Among cheese, ricotta cheese is said to provide the maximum amount of benefits, since it is particularly rich in vitamin D.
- Mushrooms: Mushrooms are also a powerful source of vitamin D. Those who do not get enough sunlight exposure can look to include mushrooms in their diet, wherein it can be taken three to four times per week. There are various ways of preparing mushrooms; they can be cooked, baked, or fried on a pan. To get the maximum benefit of mushrooms, they can be sun dried before consuming them. When they are exposed to sunlight, they can naturally produce vitamin D, which is very much similar to how humans produce vitamin D by exposure to sunlight. Mushrooms grow in dark areas and usually do not contain the necessary vitamins that are required; however, there are specific brands that are grown in the ultraviolet light so that they can produce vitamin D. You can get those specific mushrooms in the store, as well, since it is one of the apt foods for vegetarians who are looking for plant based foods having the right amount of nutrients including vitamins.
- Sardines: Due to the immense health benefits, sardines are becoming a lot more popular. It is one of the best foods that contains vitamin D. Small amount of sardines fulfill the daily recommended dose of vitamin D. They are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which help to reduce inflammation and lower cholesterol.
- Fish: Every kind of fish is said to be a rich source of vitamin D. One can consume fatty fish or oily fish, since they are loaded with vitamin D, rather than the ones that are less oily. One of the examples of oily fish would be salmon, and the other options would include eel, tuna, mackerel, and trout. Apart from fresh fish, canned tuna fish is also known to boost the intake of vitamin D in the body. Canned sardines and tuna are known to contain vitamin D. Also, they are much less expensive than the fresh ones. Since they have a longer shelf life, they can be stocked for longer periods, as well. Mackerels are known to be a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids. Hence, those individuals who consume more fish items are sure enough to get their essential dosage of vitamins and minerals that the body is unable to produce on its own. Herring is another fish that is known to have a good amount of vitamin D, since they feed on a good amount of plankton. Plankton are known to have a good amount of vitamin D. Herring can be picked or smoked for consumption. It contains a healthy amount of fats in addition to the other nutrients. They are also known to be a good source of proteins, which leads to development of muscles. It contains high amounts of Vitamin B12, calcium, and iron.
- Oysters: They are considered as one of the best foods that contain rich sources of vitamin D. Raw oysters contain a lot of essential nutrients, but it should be cooked properly before consumption. Cooking properly would lead to destroying the harmful bacteria that are present in them.
- Soy milk: Being a plant based milk, soy milk is produced by soaking dry soybeans and then grinding them with water. Even though it is known to contain the same amount of protein as in the case of regular cow’s milk, it is also loaded with vitamin D, C, and iron.
- Fortified cereal: There are various fortified cereals available in the market that provide vitamin D, as well as taste. You can look out for the low calorie ones to fill up the daily need of vitamin D in the diet.
- Cod liver oil: Cod liver would not be that flavor, but it is also one of the good sources of vitamin D. Cod liver is often flavored with citrus or mint, and in some cases, it comes in the form of capsules. One tablespoon of cod liver would contain around 1300 IUs of vitamin D, but it is more than the recommended dose for an individual on a daily basis. The daily recommended dose is 600 IUs.
- Egg: Egg yolks contain a lot of nutrients. Since the egg yolk is loaded with vitamin D, it is very much important to use the whole egg, instead of just going with the egg whites. Egg yolks can thus be also considered as nutritious. Eggs are one of the popular dishes that can be incorporated as part of breakfast, lunch, or dinner. In certain cases, eggs are also made part of desserts. One yolk would contain 40IUs. However, do not just limit the vitamin D from eggs; since they also contain cholesterol, you should consume the other sources, as well.
- Fortified milk: In the United States, almost all types of cow’s milk are fortified with vitamin D. However, the same is not the case with ice creams and certain brands of cheese. Apart from cow milk, certain rice milks and soy milks have vitamin D. Before purchasing these products, you can check the label for more details on the presence of vitamin D.
- Fortified orange juice: If you are not a big fan of dairy products, then you can always consume fortified orange juice. A glass of fortified orange juice would have around 100IUs of vitamin D. However, this amount of vitamin D would vary depending on which brand you have purchased. Also, not all brands of orange juice are fortified; hence, it is best to check the label before purchasing the juice.
- Beef liver: Although it cannot be termed as one of the appealing sources of Vitamin D, 4 ounces of beef liver would contain around 50IUs of vitamin D. It is also rich in other nutrients, such as iron, protein, and vitamin A. However, remember that beef liver is also rich in cholesterol; hence, instead of beef liver, you can consume oily or fatty fish.
Apart from the above mentioned food items, the below are also considered to be good sources of vitamin D:
- Sunlight: Sunlight helps the body to make its own vitamin D. However, the risk associated with exposure to sun is that in certain cases too much of harmful sun rays can lead to an increase in the risk of skin cancer. Hence, one can have small amounts of sun exposure without applying sunscreen. When we say small amount, it would mean around 20 to 25 minutes of sun exposure. When we talk about sunlight, it should be direct contact with sunlight and not the one which we get through windows. As soon as the sun rays hit the skin, it stimulates the vitamin D production in the body. Maximum exposure to sunlight would lead to more production of vitamin D. So as to boost the proper levels of vitamin D, one can expose the face, arms, and hands. The reason for doing so is that for the body to produce vitamin D, the skin should not be covered in layers. One can cast them off until the skin starts to turn pink.
- Supplements: If not for food or sunlight, there are certain individuals who are unable to fulfill the daily intake of vitamin D, so they can consume vitamin D supplements after the consultation with the doctor. However, be aware that too much vitamin D in the body can also become toxic, since it can come from food, supplements, and exposure to sunlight. It is best to check with the doctor and follow his advice. The vitamin D supplements are available in two forms, including vitamin D2 and vitamin D3. The former is known as ergocalciferol. It is synthesized from yeast and plants. This is the type of vitamin D that is most popular. Another form of vitamin D, which is known as D3, is scientifically called cholecalciferol. It is one of the most active forms of vitamins. Both vitamins D2 and D3 are not active in the body, so they would need to be metabolized into active forms; hence, it is called calcitriol.
Health Benefits of Vitamin D
- Managing weight: Deficiency of vitamin D is linked with weight gain or obesity, and ultimately the individual would find it difficult to lose those extra pounds once gained. In one of the studies, it was found that women who had higher amounts of vitamin D and were on a calorie controlled diet lost more weight than those who had lower amounts of vitamin D. However, there are still some grey areas as to whether it is deficiency of vitamin D that leads to obesity or if it is vice versa. However, ultimately if you are finding it difficult to lose that weight, then you can rethink your diet and plan to consider vitamin D rich foods in the diet.
- Maintaining health of the muscles and bones: Consuming foods that are rich sources of vitamin D can play a vital role in calcium absorption, thus maintain strong and healthy bones. Apart from the bones, it would also help to maintain the muscles throughout the life of the individual. Those who are elderly and have a good intake of vitamin D foods can show more activeness, have an improved muscle strength, and also would be less susceptible to falling.
- Cancer and nervous system health: There have been several research studies that have been conducted on people who have low levels of vitamin D. It has been seen that they perform poorly in their exams, are not good at decision making, and also lack concentration due to which they find it difficult to perform any tasks that would need attention and focus. Individuals with healthy levels of vitamin D have reduced risk of cancer, mostly associated with breast and colon.
- Vitamin D is considered to be a fat soluble vitamin that is formed in the skin when exposed to sunlight.
- It is one of the essential vitamins, having a lot of benefits for the body.
- Vitamin D helps to reduce inflammation, maintain strong and healthy bones, teeth, muscles, and cell growth.