Vitamin D is an essential nutrient we consume and a hormone our body produces. This is a fat-soluble vitamin and goes a long way in helping our body to absorb calcium and phosphorus — both of which are required for building healthy bones and enhancing bone health. The recommended dose of vitamin D is 400-800 IU (20 micrograms) per day, according to the United States health agency, National Institutes of Health. And, exposure to sun rays is one of the ways to meet this requirement. But this might not be possible for some due to the weather, work hours or other health conditions. Other than sun rays and vitamin D supplements, there are some vitamin D-rich foods that can be added to your diet. Read on to find out about them.
A vitamin D deficiency can cause various symptoms like fatigue, back pain, muscle pain, weight gain, and hair loss, among other issues. To figure out if you have a vitamin D deficiency or not, a blood test is required. And you should always consult a doctor before going for those vitamin D supplements or how to treat it.
Vitamin D foods – Benefits & Deficiencies
Vitamin D is essential for maintaining good health, and people, especially those with darker skin, residing in tropical countries need to make a conscious effort to maintain the sunshine vitamin at an adequate level in their bloodstream. The reason for this is they have a component called melanin in their skin which acts as a barrier to protect their skin from the harmful effects of the sunlight. The flip side of having this pigment is that it also reduces the absorption of vitamin D; hence these individuals must consume foods rich in the same.
Key benefits of eating vitamin D-rich foods
Vitamin D is essential for having strong bones. It helps in absorbing calcium and other key minerals required for good bone health. And, its adequate intake gives protection to bones even in old age. This was established by a 2009 study, which concluded that higher vitamin D intake gives better protection to individuals aged 65 or above against fractures.
Helps tackle type 2 diabetes (T2DM)
The presence of an adequate amount of vitamin D also reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes. This was revealed in a study after observing over 83,000 nurses in the US for 20 years. It was found that taking in the required quantity of vitamin D, along with calcium, decreased the risk of contracting T2DM by 33 percent.
Improves brain function
Vitamin D also has a positive effect on brain cognitive functions and lowers the odds of developing dementia. This relation was recently established by researchers at the University of Calgary in Canada and the University of Exeter in the UK after carrying out an observational study on over 12,000 people in the US.
What happens if your body is low on vitamin D?
Babies born to vitamin D-deficient mothers or children (6-36 months) with low dietary intake of the vitamin can be at risk of having rickets. This condition affects bone development, and as a result, it leads to skeletal deformities.
In adults, vitamin D deficiency could lead to a condition called osteomalacia, in which the bones tend to get temporarily weak till the body is replenished with the vitamin again.
A deficiency of sunshine vitamin could cause emotional disorders, and it is common for a person to feel frequent mood swings and generally low. It is also common to feel fatigued too often.
Low amounts of this nutrient can lead to hair loss as well. Alopecia, a condition which causes patchy baldness anywhere on the body, has been linked with the deficiency of vitamin D as well, research has shown.
These foods are natural sources of vitamin D
Though cheese does not have a high concentration of vitamin D, it can still be considered an option, especially for vegetarians. Out of all varieties of cheeses, Ricotta has the highest source of vitamin D. Its single serving contains 25 IU of this essential vitamin.
To meet your daily dose, one would need to take multiple servings of cheese. However, that’s not recommended, as they are high in fat content. So have it in moderate amount. You can mix the cheese in your pasta or spread it on your toast after melting it.
Margarine and butter
Among the fatty spreads, one could opt for margarine. This spread, in addition to containing 65 percent less saturated fats, has a healthy amount of vitamin D. One portion (approximately 14 grams) of fortified margarine contains 20 IU of vitamin D.
One of the most popular dairy products, butter contains significant amounts of fat. In fact, it is 80 percent fat only. But, it is also a good source of several vitamins, including D. You can meet 11 percent of your daily vitamin D requirement just by having one tablespoon of butter. Of course, since it is high in fat, do exercise caution.
Along with being rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, oily fish are also a good source of vitamin D3. You can incorporate fatty fish — like salmon, trout, sardines, herring and mackerel — in your diet. Raw, canned, smoked, or pickled, you can consume it in whichever way suits your palate.
According to Medical News Today: “Oily fish has been linked to many health benefits, including a lower risk of heart disease, improved mental ability, and protection from cancer, alcohol-related dementia, and rheumatoid arthritis.”
As per American Heart Association (AHA), one should consume a minimum of two servings of oily fish every week.
The nutritional value of eggs makes us ponder why it hasn’t been added to the superfoods category. Another way to get vitamin D naturally is by consuming whole eggs.
Apart from providing vitamin D, consuming eggs also helps in strengthening your muscles, enhancing brain health, boosting the immune system, and decreasing the risk of heart disease, among others.
You can opt for scrambled eggs, boiled or poached eggs, and omelettes. As per Mayo Clinic, a healthy individual should eat no more than seven eggs a week. Practice moderation.
Even though banana does not contain vitamin D in its nutritional profile, it is a great source of magnesium. And, this makes the intake of the fruit essential, as magnesium and vitamin D together play a vital role in the growth and maintenance of bones.
Mushrooms are one of the few vitamin D sources for vegetarians. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Consuming mushrooms also reduces the risk of cancer and diabetes, along with enhancing heart health.
Mushrooms are a rich source of B vitamins (B2, B3, folate, B5), phosphorus, vitamin D, selenium, copper and potassium. You can add mushrooms to your burgers, sandwiches, pizzas, pasta, omelettes, soups and salads.
Red meat includes lamb, pork, goat, veal, and mutton. However, as per Medical News Today, “Some research has linked regular consumption of red meat to a number of health problems, such as heart disease, some cancers, kidney problems, digestive issues, and mortality.”
The article also went on to state that the type of red meat one chooses can make a whole lot of difference. For example processed red meat — like bacon, hot dogs, sausage, bologna, and salami — have the highest chance of causing health issues as they contain a high amount of salt, fat, and preservatives.
It’s better to opt for leaner cuts of unprocessed red meat, which includes sirloin steaks and pork tenderloin.
It won’t be wrong to say that natural sources of vitamin D are limited, especially for those who don’t eat fish or eggs. A way out is to include fortified food items in your diet. Fortified foods are those items that have some extra nutrients, like vitamins and minerals, added to them.
You can choose from a range of options that are fortified with vitamin D, like fat spreads, breakfast cereals, orange juice, soy milk, tofu, oatmeal and more. Fortified orange juice and other foods have more health benefits as well.
However, be careful and read the ingredients list before buying these foods. Look out for things like added preservatives and sugar that can be harmful.
What happens if you consume too much Vitamin D?
Adults and children mustn’t exceed the stipulated limit because excess consumption of vitamin D can have hazardous after-effects, like weakening of bones. As per the US health agency NIH, an average dosage of 400-800 IU per day is recommended for maintaining a healthy level of vitamin D in the body.
While it is essential to fortify your body with the essential amount of vitamin D to live a healthy life, one needs to be careful about the intake and should go for additional supplements only if your medical practitioner recommends it to you.
Also, exposure to sunlight is the best way to get your daily dose of vitamin D. One needs to be extra careful about the after-effects of prolonged exposure to the UV rays of the sun. The best way to get an appropriate amount is to have Vitamin D-rich foods.
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