What is Vitamin D?

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient vital for maintaining healthy and strong bones. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium (one of bone’s main building blocks) from food and other supplements. It is the crucial constituent that stops bones from going soft & brittle, supports muscle function and prevents bone degeneration & osteoporosis. In addition to healthy bones, Vitamin D boosts brain function, strengthens immunity, and helps with resorption of calcium in the kidneys that would otherwise have been excreted.
The body makes Vitamin D when our skin is directly exposed to the sun. We also get Vitamin D naturally through some foods and also through fortified dairy and grain products. The amount of Vitamin D each individual needs depends on age. If this daily requirement is not met, it can result in Vitamin D deficiency.

Age Recommended Amount
Birth to 12 months 400 IU
Children 1–13 years 600 IU
Teens 14–18 years 600 IU
Adults 19–70 years 600 IU
Adults 71 years and older 800 IU
Pregnant and breastfeeding women 600 IU

Vitamin D deficiency causes

Vitamin D deficiency is very common. It’s estimated that about 1 billion people worldwide have low levels of the vitamin in their blood. Some of the known causes of Vitamin D deficiency include

  • Limited exposure to sunlight
  • Always using sunscreen while outdoors
  • Vegan diet (as most natural Vitamin D sources are animal-based)
  • Darker skin (this means more melanin which reduces the skin’s ability to make Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight)
  • Reduced kidney function which hinders the conversion of Vitamin D to an active form
  • Intestines cannot absorb vitamin D from food
  • Obesity

Vitamin D deficiency effects

Vitamin D deficiency can pose health risks such as

  • Loss of bone density & bone disorders such as osteoporosis (fragile or broken bones)
  • Rickets in children ( soft & bent bones) & Osteomalacia in adults (causes weak bones)
  • Cardiovascular diseases
  • Asthma
  • Cognitive impairment in elderly people

Vitamin D deficiency symptoms

Most people are not aware that they have Vitamin D deficiency as the symptoms are subtle. Some symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include

  • Getting sick regularly due to weakened immune system
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Bone pain & lower back pain
  • Depression
  • Slow healing of wounds
  • Low bone mineral density
  • Hair loss
  • Chronic muscle pain

9 foods that are high in Vitamin D

Getting enough exposure to sunlight is the best way to make sure that you get your daily requirement of Vitamin D. But in addition to going out in the sun there are some foods where Vitamin D is naturally found. Incorporating these Vitamin D rich foods in your daily diet can help you avoid its deficiency.

1 Fatty Fish

Fatty & oily fish have some of the highest quantities of Vitamin D in food sources. Herring, swordfish, tuna, salmon, sardines, canned tuna, halibut, mackerel are all very good sources of Vitamin D.

2. Cod Liver Oil

If you are not a fish eater, then Cod Liver Oil supplements are a good alternative. In addition to being high in Vitamin D, cod liver oil is also high in Vitamin A and Omega 3 fatty acids.

3. Eggs

Fish are not the only source of Vitamin D, whole eggs are a super food source with a high quantity of Vitamin D. Most of the protein in an egg is found in the whites whereas fat, vitamins and minerals are found mostly in the yolk.

4. Mushrooms

Mushrooms are the rare plant-based source of Vitamin D. Just like human beings, mushrooms (wild mushrooms exposed to UV rays) can synthesize Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight.

5. Orange Juice

Many people have a low tolerance for dairy products so fortified orange juice can be a good alternative to get the required amount of Vitamin D. Also, orange juice is an excellent source of Vitamin C too.

6. Fortified Cow & Soy milk

Cow’s milk is the most consumed type of milk and is rich in calcium, phosphorus, and riboflavin. Cow’s milk fortified with Vitamin D can be a good option to start the day with a vital dose of the nutrient.

As Vitamin D is mainly found in animal-based food sources, vegans & vegetarians can risk not getting enough Vitamin D. Fortified Soy milk is a good substitute for non-fish & non-meat eaters to get their daily Vitamin D.

7. Fortified Tofu & Yoghurt

Fortified tofu can be a good source of vitamin D for vegetarians and vegans. Yoghurt is an excellent source of good-for-the-gut probiotics. Fortified yoghurt is a good source of Vitamin D and can fulfil almost 10 -20 % of your daily requirement of Vitamin D.

8. Cheese

Although not the topmost source, cheese does contribute some vitamin D to your diet, especially if it is made with milk that was fortified with vitamin D.

9. Fortified Cereals & Oatmeal

Although lower in Vitamin D than other natural sources, fortified cereals and oatmeal are a good substitute to boost Vitamin D intake, especially for vegans & vegetarians.

Apart from these foods, if you are still Vitamin D deficient then taking Vitamin D supplements can also be an option, but only after consultations with your doctor.

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