If there is one vitamin that can be termed versatile, it is Vitamin D. This ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ does it all: it protects against depression, builds stronger bones, regulates the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes and prevents several types of cancer in addition to increasing life expectancy.
Vitamin D is procured naturally by the body from the sun. When our skin is exposed to the sun, our body is designed to produce vitamin D from the UV rays. This Vitamin D is imperative through every stage of our life for various reasons.
The importance of vitamin D
Vitamin D builds stronger bones: Vitamin D helps the body to absorb calcium from food. Children need vitamin D to help build a strong bone structure. It also helps to prevent formation of bowed legs, knocked knees as well as prevents rickets. As we grow old and our bones become weak, a daily supplement of vitamin D and calcium will help make the bones stronger and prevent fractures.
Vitamin D deficiency causes multiple sclerosis: Studies show that multiple sclerosis is more common in places away from the equator. This autoimmune disorder that damages the nerves can, in all probability, be attributed to low levels of vitamin D.
Vitamin D reduces the risk of diabetes: According to expert opinion, vitamin D reduces insulin resistance, increases insulin sensitivity and improves the functioning of the cells that produce insulin. This may help in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes. Studies show that vitamin D supplements may also control the blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics.
Vitamin D helps in preventing some types of cancer: With higher levels of vitamin D, the risk of some types of cancer is lowered. Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D may prevent bladder cancer, colorectal cancer and others. Some cancer treatment studies have also reported that vitamin D could play a key role in arresting the progression of the disease.
Vitamin D helps improve heart health: Medical surveys report that individuals with the highest risk of heart disease were those with low vitamin D levels. They have an increased risk of high blood pressure as well. Hence, maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D may be one of the best ways to keep heart diseases in check.
Vitamin D helps deal with depression: Studies show that lower levels of vitamin D increase the chances of depression. Theories suggest that vitamin D increases the amount of serotonin in the brain which is responsible for feelings of happiness and well-being.
Vitamin D may increase life expectancy: People who enjoy the sun and a diet filled with Vitamin D supplements are less likely to die prematurely and more likely to enjoy a long and healthy life. Studies have shown an amazingly consistent link between long life and vitamin D.
Vitamin D strengthens muscles: Vitamin D is good for muscle strength. It is recommended for athletes for this very reason. Elderly people can also enjoy high muscle strength when they maintain adequate levels of vitamin D, which consequently reduces the risk of falls.
Vitamin D has also been shown to have the potential to reduce asthma attacks, prevent cold, relieve chronic pain, make a speedy recovery from surgery, promote healthy birth weight and reduce the risk of Parkinson’s disease and dementia.
Some ways to get vitamin D
Vitamin D is linked to many health benefits. It is not only a vital vitamin but also one which can be procured easily and naturally.
Sunlight: A main natural source of Vitamin D is the sun, from where it can be procured abundantly. Sunlight triggers the production of Vitamin D by the body. So exposure to the sun every day for at least 20-25 minutes will provide you with your daily fix of Vitamin D.
Fish: Trout, salmon, tuna, mackerel and eel are some of the varieties of fish that are a good source of vitamin D. A bonus from this source is the omega-3 fatty acids that the heart loves!
Mushrooms: Mushrooms usually grow in the dark where UV rays cannot penetrate. But some specific varieties of mushrooms are grown in ultraviolet light as they have the ability to spur vitamin D production. These mushrooms are a great source of the vitamin, especially for vegetarians.
Fortified milk: In addition to Vitamin A, fortified milk contains vitamin D as well. Typically, a glass of fortified milk contains about ten micrograms of vitamin D.
Orange juice: Vegans who cannot consume dairy products can turn to fortified orange juice for their dosage of vitamin D. Check specifically for brands that offer fortified juice.
Fortified cereal: A crunchy way to get vitamin D from your food is by eating fortified cereals. Team it up with fortified milk or fortified orange juice and you have your daily requirement of vitamin D met.
Egg yolks: A tasty way to incorporate vitamin D into your diet is by consuming eggs. Be sure to cook and eat not just egg whites but the yolk too as the vitamin D in egg comes from its yolk.
Cod liver oil: You can consume this source of vitamin D in its capsule form to get your dose of vitamin D.
Supplements: Vitamin D supplements ensure a correct dosage of Vitamin D. They can eliminate the chances of skin cancer which can be contracted with overexposure to UV rays. Your medical practitioner should be consulted for the proper dosage.
UV lamps and bulbs: People far away from the equator cannot come by UV rays of the sun naturally. They run a high risk of vitamin D deficiency and should make up for its scarcity by exposure to UV lamps and bulbs. Eye protection is necessary while doing so and so is a doctor’s prescription.
Turn to the sun or any of the above mentioned sources for this wonder vitamin, your body simply cannot do without it.