Vitamin D (Sunshine Vitamin) Health Benefits and Best Natural Sources

Vitamin D is also known as "Sunshine Vitamin" because it is manufactured by the body after it is exposed to sunlight because direct rays from sunlight trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin. Vitamin D is a very stable fat soluble vitamin. Like other fat soluble vitamins, the body is capable of storing Vitamin D for later use. Due to its excellent stability, it is not broken down during food preparation or exposure to heat sources.

Forms of Vitamin D

Basically there are two Forms of Vitamin D which are given below:

(i)Vitamin D2

Vitamin D2 also known as Ergocalciferol, is derived from plant sources. Vitamin D2 is synthetically made from radiating a compound (ergosterol) from the mold ergot.

(ii)Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 also known as Cholecalciferol, is derived from animal sources. The body can also synthesize vitamin D3 (Cholecalciferol) in the skin, from cholesterol, when sun exposure is adequate.

Best Health Benefits of Vitamin D

1. Calcium Absorption

Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium, helping to form and maintain strong bones. If you eat foods rich in calcium but don't get enough vitamin D then it would be impossible for your body to absorb sufficient calcium. Hence to absorb calcium it is essential to consume vitamin D rich foods as well.

2. Healthy Bones and Teeth

Vitamin D is also essential for healthy bones and teeth. Without vitamin D, bones become thin, soft and brittle can be broken easily. A deficiency in Vitamin D also affect teeth growth and may cause many dental problems.

3. Boosts Memory

Vitamin D also helps to improve mental sharpness. People who eat foods with high content of Vitamin D have higher memory and information processing capabilities than those with lower level of Vitamin D.

4. Prevents Arthritis

Vitamin D provides calcium balance in the body and prevents arthritis. Additionally a diet rich in Vitamin D also prevents from joint pain and inflammation.

5. Prevents Rickets

Vitamin D prevents rickets in children. Rickets causes skeletal deformities. Children with sufficient level of Vitamin D are at lower risk of rickets as compared to those who don't get enough Vitamin D.

6. Prevents Osteomalacia

Vitamin D also prevents osteomalacia in adults. Osteomalacia causes muscular weakness and weak bones. Foods rich in Vitamin D helps a lot to prevent Osteomalacia.

7. Prevents Cancer

Vitamin D also prevents certain cancers such as breast cancer, prostate, and colon cancer. Recent studies have shown that people with higher level of Vitamin D are at lower risk of developing such cancers as compared to those who don't have sufficient Vitamin D.

8. Slow Down Aging

Anti oxidant properties of Vitamin D fight against skin damaging free radicals, that may causes premature wrinkles. Hence eating foods rich in Vitamin D slow down the appearance of wrinkles and other signs of aging.

9. Prevents and Reduces Asthma Symptoms

Recent scientific researches have shown that Vitamin D can prevent and reduce the severity and frequency of asthma symptoms. Additionally Vitamin D not only improves lung function but help you breathe well and feel better.

10. Improves Muscle Function and Strength

Vitamin D not only improves muscle function but also enhances muscle strength including recovery from exercise and daily activities. Lower level of Vitamin D can lead to physical fatigue. Vitamin D deficiency may also cause muscle cramps in adolescent boys and girls.

Natural Sources of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is found in animal fats including organ meats, butter, egg yolks and full-fat dairy products. Milk that has been fortified with Vitamin D is a really good source because it has the added bonus of providing the body with calcium.Other foods that have been fortified with this vitamin, such as orange juice and cereals, are other reliable sources. Foods that are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines are other good sources.Cod liver oil is also a good source of Vitamin D. Exposure to sunlight(UV)is also a good source of Vitamin D. We must expose our body to sunlight at least for 10 to 15 minutes and we must repeat this activity 3 to 4 days per week. Avoid over exposure to direct sun rays because it can cause photoaging (sun-induced skin aging).

Deficiency Symptoms of Vitamin D

(i) In children Vitamin D deficiency results in Rickets. The primary symptoms of this disease are soft bones and bones that develop abnormally. Infants that do not get sufficient Vitamin D can develop a condition in which bones do not harden. This results in bowed legs, stunted growth and a lot of pain.
(ii) In Adults insufficient levels of Vitamin D can cause osteoporosis, a condition in which bones become weak and fracture easily.
(iii) Muscle weakness is an other symptom of Vitamin D deficiency. A severe deficiency of Vitamin D may cause difficulty in climbing stairs or getting up from the floor or a low chair, or can lead to the person walking with a waddling pattern. Muscle cramps even after a minor physical activity or exercise is an other symptom of Vitamin D deficiency.

Vitamin D Daily Recommended Allowance:

Recommended Daily  Allowance of Vitamin D

Life Stages
Infants (0-6 Months) 400 IU/day or (10 mcg/day)
Infants (7-12 Months) 400 IU/day or (10 mcg/day)
Children (1-12 Years) 600 IU/day or (15 mcg/day)
Adolescents (13-18 Years Boys and Girls) 600 IU/day or (15 mcg/day)
Adults (19-50 Years) 600 IU/day or (15 mcg/day)
Pregnant Woman (Any Age) 600-800 IU/day or (15-20 mcg/day)
Breast Feeding Woman (Any Age) 600-800 IU/day or (15-20 mcg/day)
Adults (51-70 Years) 700 IU/day or (17.5 mcg/day)
Adults (71 years and Older) 800 IU/day or (20 mcg/day)

The recommended daily intake for adults is 600 IU (International Units). Individuals aged 50-70 should increase their intake to 700 IU and those older than 70 should get even more than 700 IU/day. This is because the ability of skin to convert vitamin D into its active form decreases as we grow older. Also, the kidneys, which help, convert vitamin D to its active form, sometimes does not work well in older people.