Contributed by: Healthians Team
Vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine” vitamin, is one of the most important vitamins for our general health, yet many individuals in India, as well as the rest of the world, are deficient in it.
As an essential micronutrient, Vitamin D plays a significant role in maintaining the proper balance of calcium and phosphorus levels in your blood. These are the two nutrients that operate in tandem to strengthen your bones.
Only a small amount of calcium from your diet can be absorbed by your body if you don’t have vitamin D, and only a little more than half of the phosphorus can be absorbed if you lack vitamin D.
Until recently, researchers assumed that vitamin D’s primary function was facilitating normal immune system function to protect the body against infection.
Beyond this function, new research has suggested an association between low vitamin D levels and a higher likelihood of developing various health issues.
In this article, we look at the benefits of vitamin D, plus information about downsides, what happens to the body when people do not get enough, and foods with vitamin D.
Why it’s so important to be vitamin D savvy??
Laboratory studies show that Vitamin D helps to:
- Promote healthy bones
- Prevents osteoporosis
- Reduces the risk of diabetes and regulate insulin levels
- Protects against cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, heart failure, and stroke
- Reduces the risk for multiple sclerosis
- Supports brain as well as nervous system health
- Regulates mood and decrease the risk of depression
- Improves your lung function
- Reduces the expression of genes involved in cancer development, especially colon cancer, prostate cancer, and breast cancer
If you don’t get enough vitamin D
- Your bones can grow brittle and get fractured easily
- Children can get “rickets,” a disease that leads to a severely bowlegged appearance due to the softening of the bones
- Adults can develop “osteomalacia,” a disease that results in poor bone density and muscular weakness
- Older adults can get osteoporosis, which makes the bones thin and easy to fracture
- Increased risk of infections and autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis
What are the best sources?
Sunlight is the best source of vitamin D as only a few foods contain considerable quantities of this vital nutrient.
You can also enhance vitamin D consumption with vitamin D supplements, which are readily accessible over-the-counter at any drugstore.
However, sunlight, not pills, is the best source of this vitamin for humans.
Unless you have a unique sensitivity to sun exposure, spending a little amount of time in the sun each day without sunscreen may not be a bad idea.
You’re probably getting enough vitamin D if you expose your skin to summer sunlight for 10 to 15 minutes at least twice a day.
Foods that provide vitamin D
Only a handful of foods contain vitamin D naturally, but some foods are fortified with this nutrient. These are some of the best sources of this seemingly super nutrient:
- Fatty fish
- Egg yolks
- Beef liver
- Almond milk
- Fortified cereals/oatmeal
Who is at risk for vitamin deficiency?
If you belong to any of the following groups, you may be at risk of vitamin D inadequacy, in which case dietary supplements might be required to meet the daily need for vitamin D:
- Breast-fed infants or who get less than 2 cups each day of vitamin D fortified formula or milk
- People with darker skin
- People with limited exposure to sunlight
- People who use sunscreen often
- Homebound individuals
- People who are obese
- People who have medical conditions that cause fat malabsorption
- People who have liver or kidney problems
- People who live in high pollution areas
- People who have undergone gastric bypass surgery
Despite the fact that vitamin D deficiencies are very frequent, the majority of people are unaware that they are deficient.
In fact, without a blood test, it’s almost impossible to tell if you’re lacking in vitamin D.
That’s why it is worthwhile to check vitamin D levels to assess your baseline D levels. The best way to diagnose a vitamin D deficiency is by performing a simple blood test.