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Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin, as we get most of our daily requirement from exposure to sunlight. However, most of us spend our days cooped up in offices and at home. Even if we can find a sunny window, sitting by it is not enough to enable the body to produce vitamin D. The primary reason behind this is that UVB rays cannot get in through the glass. This may result in vitamin D deficiency in people.

Vitamin D plays multiple roles in the body. The main ones are mentioned below: 

  • Bone and teeth health: Eating calcium-rich foods alone does not ensure better bone density. We need vitamin D to absorb calcium and phosphorous, which are immensely important for the maintenance of bone health. This is known to prevent osteoporosis and keep the bones strong and dense.
    Calcium is also very important for dental health. Due to the same reason as above, a lack of vitamin D result may also result in underdeveloped teeth or tooth decay.
  • Respiratory health: Studies have found that vitamin D deficiency could cause problems in respiratory function. They exhibit strong proof that low levels of vitamin D were associated with bronchitis and asthma.
  • Diabetes: Vitamin D improves the body's sensitivity to insulin—the hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar levels—and thus reduce the risk of insulin resistance, which is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes.
  • Mental Health: Research has shown that vitamin D might play an important role in regulating mood and improving mental health. According to a study, people with depression who received vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in their symptoms.
  • Immune system: Vitamin D helps in turning on and turning off certain mechanisms of our immunity. (Read more: Immunity boosting foods)

While our skin can turn the ultraviolet B rays of the sun into vitamin D, many of us don't go out enough. Additionally, people with darker skin have more melanin pigment on the surface which prevents a lot of these UVB rays from getting in.

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a number of problems like:

  • Back pain: Studies have shown that low levels of vitamin D in the blood can cause or contribute to chronic back pain.
  • Slow wound healing: Vitamin D plays a role in controlling inflammation by increasing the production of certain compounds that help in the formation of new skin. This makes it important for proper healing. Impaired wound healing after an injury or surgery may be indicative of vitamin D deficiency.
  • Bone loss: Loss of bone density causes bones to become brittle and weak. This is an unmistakable symptom of deficiency of vitamin D. Since it plays a pivotal role in calcium absorption, maintaining good levels of vitamin D is a great way to protect bone mass.
  • Hair loss: There’s a common belief that stress is the primary cause of hair loss. However, severe hair loss, also known as alopecia areata, is associated with rickets which is caused by vitamin D deficiency. Although very little research exists, loss of hair may be indicative of the same.

In the present scenario, a very select portion of the population is able to get their daily dose of vitamin D from the sun. The good news is that there are several foods that are good sources of the sunshine vitamin. Here's a look at the best of them:

  1. Mushrooms are a vegetarian source of vitamin D
  2. Eat whole eggs or egg yolks for vitamin D
  3. Take cod liver oil and fatty fish for vitamin D
  4. Vitamin D fortified foods can help
  5. How do we get vitamin D from sunlight?
Doctors for Vitamin D rich foods

Like us, mushrooms can synthesize their own vitamin D through exposure to UV radiation. This makes them the best plant source for this vitamin.

It is well-known that whole eggs are extremely nutritious. While the egg whites are rich in protein, it is the yolk that holds all the minerals and vitamins, including a good amount of vitamin D.

Apart from eggs, seafood is also a great source of this vitamin. They contain a good amount of proteins and Omega 3, which gives them various health benefits. Some of these are

  1. Salmon
  2. Herring
  3. Sardines

Cod liver oil is a fish oil supplement, which contains 75% of a person’s daily allowance of vitamin D. If you don’t feel like consuming fish, this supplement is a great option.

The options for vitamin D rich foods for vegetarians are few and far between. However, some foods that don't contain important nutrients in nature are fortified with them. These include:

  • Some cereals and oatmeal
  • Some varieties of soy milk
  • Some varieties of orange juice

The skin is the largest organ of the body. When we spend time outdoors, sunlight falls upon our skin. The UVB rays present in sunlight react with the cholesterol present on the skin’s surface and cells. This starts a conversion that ultimately results in the synthesis of vitamin D.

Spending 30 minutes to a few hours outdoors during midday should do the trick. Since the sun is at it’s highest point during midday, getting sunlight for the synthesis of vitamin D during this time becomes extremely effective.

Another factor that comes into play is the skin colour. People with darker skin have more melanin. Melanin is a compound present in the skin that protects it against damage from excess sunlight. For this reason, dark-skinned people have to spend longer in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D as people with a lighter complexion.

There are two types of vitamin D (calciferol): D2 and D3. Our skin makes vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol). When the sun's ultraviolet B rays fall on our skin, they convert a chemical called 7-dehydrocholesterol in skin cells to pre-vitamin D, which then becomes vitamin D3. Vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) is made by plants in sunlight.

How is vitamin D absorbed from food?

Vitamin D is fat-soluble. As with most nutrients, it is the job of the small intestines to absorb vitamin D. The intestines then send it off to the liver where it binds with vitamin D binding protein (DBP) and other chemicals to be transported via the bloodstream to the target organs.

Research shows that less than 10% of our daily vitamin D requirement is met by natural dietary sources.

Dt. Manjari Purwar

Dt. Manjari Purwar

Nutritionist
11 Years of Experience

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Dt. Akanksha Mishra

Nutritionist
8 Years of Experience

Surbhi Singh

Surbhi Singh

Nutritionist
22 Years of Experience

Dt. Avni Kaul

Dt. Avni Kaul

Nutritionist
8 Years of Experience

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