Vitamin D is an important source for healthy and strong bones as it helps the body to make the most out of the calcium it receives from the diet. It plays an important in one’s nerves, muscles, and overall growth.
Vitamin D refers to a group of fat-soluble secosteroids which are necessary and responsible for increasing the absorption of calcium, magnesium, zinc, and phosphate in the intestine.
One can get Vitamin D through the skin (sunlight), from the diet (foods with Vitamin D) and supplements (Vitamin D capsules). Once Vitamin D is received by the body through sunlight or foods with Vitamin D, the body goes through several chemical changes to use it.
When the body produces this vitamin, it goes to the liver. The liver then changes it into a substance which is known as 25(OH)D. This substance is then sent to the entire body, the tissues that receive this substance turn it into what is known as Activated Vitamin D. This Activated Vitamin D then manages calcium in one’s bones, blood, and liver as well as manages the cells in the body for them to function more resourcefully.
Therefore, it is important to make sure that one is receiving enough Vitamin D as the body cannot function at its best potential without it.
There is a strong link between Vitamin D and strong bones which can be achieved by increasing the time spent in natural sunlight and the intake of cod liver oil.
Recent research also shows that many health problems (improvement of immunity) can be solved just by increasing our intake of Vitamin D.
Other benefits of Vitamin D are that it plays a role in fighting diseases like multiple sclerosis and reduces the chances of catching a flu, it helps in boosting weight loss, it helps in fighting different kinds of cancer, and, helps in combating depression.
A deficiency of Vitamin D can lead to rickets, and skin pigmentation. This deficiency has also been linked to serious conditions of cancer, asthma, type II diabetes, depression, and high blood pressure. Covering one’s skin with either sunscreen or a scarf can also hinder the process of absorbing Vitamin D through the skin.
Vitamin D also depends on weather conditions as cold weather can lead to the conditions of deficiency. People who are at utmost risk for being Vitamin D deficient are those who have dark skin, people with limited sun exposure, pregnant women, infants who solely rely on breast milk, older adults, people with inflammatory bowel systems, people with liver diseases, and obese people.
The symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency include being tired, fatigued, or in pain constantly. The pain is generally in the bones and the joints. According to the Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), infants must consume around 400 International Unit (IU) of Vitamin D daily. For children and adults (irrespective of their gender), the intake should be around 600 IU of Vitamin D every day.
Women who are pregnant or lactating must also consume around 600 IU of Vitamin D every day. Whereas, for people who are over the age of 70 need around 800 IU of Vitamin D daily as their bones need to absorb more calcium for them to be strong and healthy.
How to Increase Vitamin D Intake
The most important source of Vitamin D is natural sunlight. If one is going to get Vitamin D from sunlight, they should spend at least 20 to 25 minutes in the day.
However, for people who are fair skinned, 10 minutes in sunlight is enough for the day. One must note that applying sunscreen while under the sun will not help in absorbing Vitamin D. However, too much sunlight can also be harmful leading to skin aging and skin cancer.
One can also increase the intake Vitamin D by taking supplements. However, these supplements must only be taken after professional advice.
Another way to increase the intake of Vitamin D is by consuming foods with Vitamin D in them. However, one of the biggest drawback of acquiring Vitamin D in foods is that very limited range of foods contain Vitamin D in them. A healthy diet is that which contains foods that are rich in all vitamins and minerals, including Vitamin D.
This article covers the various foods that one can include in their diet to increase the absorption of Vitamin D in their body. There are two major sources of Vitamin D in foods; non-vegetarian foods and vegetarian foods. Non-vegetarian sources include seafood, meats, and eggs. Vegetarian sources include dairy, vegetables, grains, and fruits.
Non-vegetarian Sources of Vitamin D
Most of the non-vegetarian are rich in Vitamin D. Here are the various non-vegetarian foods that one must include in their diet to increase their Vitamin D intake;
- Fatty fish – 85 grams of salmon, scout, tuna, and eel contain about 450 International Units (IU) of Vitamin D; thus, they are essentially a rich source for it. These fish also have omega 3 fatty acids in them which is beneficial as well.
- Carp fish – 100 grams of carp fish contains about 988 IU of Vitamin D. Carp fish also have omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin B12 which are very essential for overall growth and good health. They can also be found in local grocery stores.
- Canned tuna fish is also widely available in many stores with the increase of globalisation. Canned tuna fish is also appealing as it is cheaper than buying fresh fish. It includes all the health benefits as fresh fish, and this way one can maintain a healthy diet while on a budget. 85 grams of canned tuna fish contains 450 IU of Vitamin D which covers about 75% of the daily Vitamin D requirement.
- Sardines – They are especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D. Two portions of sardines contain 46 IU of Vitamin D. Sardines don’t contain trans-fat and have only 2% of saturated fat, making them the healthiest fish to consume.
- Shrimps – 85 grams of shrimp contain 139 IU of Vitamin D. Shrimps are easily available, and are a healthier choice as they don’t contain as much trans-fat as fatty fish.
Mackerels – These are another type of fish that cover about 90% of the daily requirement of Vitamin D in just 100 grams. They are, thus, an essential source for Vitamin D.
- Sushi – Apart from being a delicacy, sushi is also healthy. 5 pieces of sushi cover around 2% of the daily Vitamin D requirement.
A healthy diet must include about 2 portions of fish a week, hence, it is advisable to consume two portions of the above-mentioned fish, to sustain Vitamin D levels in one’s body.
Pregnant women are at a risk for deficiency of Vitamin D, and thus, for them it is advisable to consume at least 2 to 3 servings of fish every week.
From the above-mentioned fish, pregnant women should consume shrimps, tuna, salmon and eel as they have lower levels of mercury.
- Cod liver oil – Cod liver oil is a nutritional supplement which comes the liver of cod fish. It is high in Vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamin A, EPA, and DHA. It is available in most chemists either as an oil or in the form of tablets. One teaspoon of cod liver oil contains about 450 IU of Vitamin D, whereas a tablespoon of cod liver oil contains 1,360 IU of Vitamin D. Cod liver oil is the most beneficial for pregnant women, infants and older people.
- Beef liver, pork liver, and chicken liver – These meats contain 30 to 40 IU of Vitamin D per serving. The best choice amongst these is chicken liver as chicken is low on cholesterol and trans-fat. Consuming too much beef and pork can be harmful for one’s overall health. All the important nutrients that beef and pork contain and readily available in chicken. Thus, it is advisable for one to choose chicken over beef for the maintenance of a healthy diet.
- Egg yolks – Eggs are an easy way to get your dose of Vitamin D as they are commonly available everywhere. They are commonly consumed as a form of breakfast or an in-between snack. Since, Vitamin D is available in egg yolks, it is advised to use the entire egg rather than just egg whites. One egg contains around 40 IUs of Vitamin D. However, egg yolks are also high in cholesterol, thus, it is not advisable to consume more than 2 full eggs in a day.
Vegetarian Sources of Vitamin D
As mentioned earlier, vegetarian sources rich in Vitamin D are very limited so it is crucial for a vegetarian to include the below mentioned foods in their diet;
Dairy sources of Vitamin D – Perhaps the most important source for Vitamin D for a vegetarian is fortified milk.
Fortified milk is generally low in fat and contains 127 IU of Vitamin D. Since it is low in fat and high in its minerals and vitamins, including one glass of fortified milk every day in one’s diet can prove to be fruitful.
If fortified milk is not accessible, one can also opt for raw cow milk or buffalo milk. One glass of raw milk contains 98 IU of Vitamin D. One cup of fortified yogurt contains 2% of daily Vitamin D requirements.
Cheese (especially ricotta cheese) is one of the most commonly used dairy product worldwide. 28 grams of fortified cheese contains 6 IU of Vitamin D. One tablespoon of margarine as well as sour cream contains about 2% of the daily requirements of Vitamin D.
One way to increase the intake of Vitamin D is by making fortified cereal as one’s breakfast option. When paired with fortified milk, fortified cereal can cover 25% of the daily requirement of Vitamin D. However, it is important to make sure that the cereal is fortified.
There are not many vegetable sources of Vitamin D except for mushrooms. Mushrooms also have the capability of making Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. A lot of brands of mushrooms like Dole’s Portobello Mushrooms contain around 400 IU of Vitamin D per 85 grams.
This is a great source for vegetarians and vegans who are the utmost risk for deficiency of this vitamin. If one does not have access to the above-mentioned brand, one can buy mushrooms from local grocery stores and set them out in the sun to absorb Vitamin D since mushrooms can make their own Vitamin D when exposed to UV rays.
One must include one serving of mushrooms in their diet as mushrooms are also rich in fibre, protein, Vitamin C and minerals.
Just like vegetables, many fruits are not rich in Vitamin D except for fortified orange juice. If one is lactose intolerant, they can switch a glass of fortified orange juice with fortified milk.
One glass of fortified orange juice contains about 40 to 60 IU of Vitamin D. As orange juice also has Vitamin C and other minerals, one must consume at least one glass of fortified orange juice every day (available easily in stores).
Fortified Soy, Almond, and Rice Milk contain about 15 mcg (400 IU) of Vitamin D per litre. Fortified soy and almond milk are also widely available in local stores. Including plant based milk in one’s diet helps them increase their intake of healthy fats, Vitamin A, Vitamin B12, Vitamin C, proteins and dietary fibre. It also helps in speeding the process of weight loss.
Tofu is prepared from soy milk in the same way as paneer is prepared from cow milk. Fortified tofu contains about 20% of the daily requirements of Vitamin D. Tofu is also low in saturated and trans-fat and high in proteins, and thus must be included in one’s diet. Other fortified soy products like yogurt, cream, and soya chunks also contain some amounts of Vitamin D in them.
Oatmeal is a healthy breakfast or in-between snack choice for many. Oatmeal is high in fibre and thus helps one in the weight-loss process. One packet of Oatmeal also contains 25% of the daily requirement of Vitamin D.