What is vitamin D?
Vitamin D is different than other types of vitamins since it is a fat-soluble vitamin. The reason it is different is because the human body can make the 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. 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, which is also called rickets or bone abnormality.
Deficiency of vitamin D
A deficiency of vitamin D is linked with the following symptoms:
- Weakening of the bones
- Any autoimmune disease
- Weak immune system
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, 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 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. There are various ways of preparing mushrooms. 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 similar to how humans produce vitamin D after 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 dried mushrooms in the store as well.
- 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. A small amount of sardines fulfills 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. Mackerel is known to be a rich source of omega 3 fatty acids. People who consume more fish 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, which are also rich in vitamin D. Herring can be pickled or smoked for consumption. It contains a healthy amount of fats in addition to 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 one of the best foods that contain rich sources of vitamin D. They can be eaten raw or cooked.
- 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 regular cow’s milk, it is also loaded with vitamins 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 oil 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 important to use the whole egg, instead of just going with egg whites. Eggs are nutrient powerhouses that can be incorporated as part of breakfast, lunch, or dinner. In certain cases, eggs are also made part of desserts. One yolk can contain 40 IUs of vitamin D.
- 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 types of cheese. Apart from cow's 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 can have around 100 IUs 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, so it is best to check the label before purchasing the juice.
- Beef liver: Although it cannot be termed as one of the more appealing sources of Vitamin D, 4 ounces of beef liver can contain around 50 IUs 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, so consume moderately.
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. Limit yourself to 20 to 25 minutes of direct sun exposure if you aren't wearing sunscreen. As soon as the sun rays hit the skin, it stimulates 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.
- 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 consultation with their doctor. However, be aware that too much vitamin D in the body can also become toxic. It is best to check with your doctor and follow their advice. Vitamin D supplements are available as 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.
Health benefits of vitamin D
- Managing weight: Deficiency of vitamin D is linked with weight gain or obesity. 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. 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 muscle and bone health: Consuming foods that are rich sources of vitamin D can play a vital role in calcium absorption. Apart from the bones, it helps maintain muscle health. Those who are elderly and have a good intake of vitamin D foods can show more activeness, have 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. 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.