Vitamin D is primarily sourced from the sun, which is why it’s often referred to as the “sunshine vitamin”. Having the required amount of vitamin D in the body is crucial for maintaining optimum health. This is one of the reasons most of us get sick in winter as it leads to lower levels of vitamin D.
When your body receives Vitamin D (through sunlight, food, or supplements), it turns the Vitamin D into a hormone. This hormone is called activated Vitamin D or calcitriol, which is very important to your overall health. Vitamin D has multiple roles in the body like ensuring healthy bones and teeth, regulating insulin levels, supporting lung function and heart health, to name a few. Without enough activated vitamin D in the body, dietary calcium cannot be absorbed.
Sources of vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is an alarmingly common problem nowadays. Vitamin D comes in three ways - from supplements, foods, and from exposing our skin to the sun. But most people do not get enough vitamin D from sun exposure alone. Vitamin D is a unique type of vitamin because it acts more like a steroid hormone than a dietary aid. It is not readily available in most foods like other vitamins.
Vitamin D-rich Foods
Most foods that contain vitamin D only contain small amounts and won't give you the total amount your body needs. There aren’t many foods naturally high in vitamin D. The flesh of some fish varieties (like salmon, tuna and mackerel) and fish liver oils are among the best sources.
- â?‹ Fatty fish such as salmon or mackerel
- â?‹ Beef liver
- â?‹ Egg yolks
- â?‹ Milk
- â?‹ Fortified foods – Manufacturers add vitamin D to many commercially available foods like cow’s milk, orange juice, and breakfast cereals
As vitamin D is needed in various biological processes in the body, some health experts believe it should actually be classified as a hormone, the deficiency of which can have some serious health issues.
Benefits of having adequate Vitamin D levels in your body
- â?‹ Prevents osteoporosis
- â?‹ Essential for efficient utilization of calcium
- â?‹ A key contributor to the effective functioning of the immune system
- â?‹ Helps in preventing certain types of cancer - prostate cancer, breast cancer, ovarian cancer, colon cancer
- â?‹ Lowers blood pressure
- â?‹ Protects against multiple sclerosis
- â?‹ Fights depression
- â?‹ Aids in regulating body weight
Chronic vitamin D deficiency is often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia as the symptoms are identical - muscle weakness, aches, and pains.
Vitamin D is crucial to both mental and physical well-being and many of us aren’t getting enough of it, what do we do? For starters, let’s not shun the sun! A little goes a long way. Vitamin D researchers generally recommend around 15 minutes of direct unprotected sunlight two to three times a week.
So how much vitamin D do you need? Most people need about 600 IU (international units) per day and people over 70 need 800 UI. If you decide to supplement with vitamin D, make sure to discuss with your physician first.
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