During the “quarantine” period, everyone worries about their immunity. People began to become interested in vitamins and foods that urgently need to be included in their diet. Vitamin D is a leader among the many recommendations of nutritionists. It is critical especially during a time when we may be inside more than usual.
So, let’s figure it out. Is everything true they say about vitamin D? Where does it come from, what does it really mean for our health, and why is deficiency diagnosed in 13% of the world’s population (which is almost a billion)?
Vitamin D became the fourth vitamin that scientists discovered, and in order not to bother with the name, they simply decided to “call” it the fourth letter of the alphabet. Initially, it was discovered as a cure for rickets – a disease of the bone in infants and young children.
Where does D come from?
Vitamin D helps you to absorb calcium, magnesium, and phosphate, the nutrients that keep your bones, teeth, and muscles healthy. it is also thought by some that vitamin D can help your body in other ways, improving brain development, as well as muscle and heart function, and even the function of your immune system.
There are three options for getting vitamin D:
- Ultraviolet radiation or sunlight
- From food
The production of vitamin D derived from the sun gives about 80% of the total amount needed, and food consumption usually plays a secondary role. It should be understood that clothing and sunscreen can be an obstacle. If you do not completely block the production of D, then according to the latest data it is assumed that only 8-15 minutes of exposure to sunlight is enough to get the daily 80% for people with fair skin. Those with dark skin may need more time. Let’s not forget that the required amount may also depend on genetic, environmental and other factors.
Where do substances appear in our skin from which the sun “makes” vitamin D? This is where the fun begins. The “bricks” for building this vitamin are the precursors of cholesterol, which interacts with lipids or, in simple terms, fats, which we also consume with food. Cholesterol is often referred to in a negative context, but it also has extremely beneficial functions.
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Is It Possible To Get Enough Vitamin D On A Vegan Diet?
Shah MD, the co-founder of Accesa Labs, which offers vitamin D testing, maintains it is possible to get enough Vitamin D on a plant-based diet – if you eat enough mushrooms. Or mix mushrooms with our list below.
Portobello, maitake, morel, button, and shiitake are thought to be the best kinds of mushrooms to source vitamin D from. To maximize the amount of D they contain, you could even place them in sunlight. According to mushroom business Fungi Perfecti just like our skin, even sliced or dry mushrooms will soar in D levels when placed in direct sunlight.
Fortified Vegan Milk
Fortified vegan milks – like coconut, almond, and soy can contain high levels of D. Check the label of your regular non-dairy milk to be sure it contains enough vitamin D, if not, you can switch to a new one!
Tofu is a good source of a number of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin D. The good thing about tofu is its versatility. You can use it in a variety of dishes at different times of the day. Consider scrambling it and having it on toast for breakfast, or you could make a tofu Thai green curry for lunch or a breaded tofu burger for dinner.
Drinking orange juice is a good way to keep your D levels up. One study – conducted at the Boston University School of Medicine – discovered that participants who took supplements and those who drunk orange juice fortified with 1,000 IU of D had the same risen levels of the vitamin by the end of the experiment.
If you’re struggling to get enough D, consider taking a supplement. Fortunately, there are many vegan supplements on the market. Major UK health food chain Holland & Barrett offers mushroom vitamin D supplements. It also offers a multivitamin, packed with D, as well as E, C, A, B1, B6, and B12. Mykind Organics, founded by vegan actor Alicia Silverstone, also offers a plant-based D supplement in chewy, tablet, and spray varieties.
Which foods are richest in vitamin D and its precursors for the non-vegan?
Fish (especially salmon, tuna, sardines, cod)
Interestingly, wild salmon contains almost 4 times more D precursors than those grown under artificial conditions.
One medium-sized egg yolk contains 5% of D total daily intake.
Like humans, mushrooms can synthesize this vitamin when exposed to ultraviolet light. However, mushrooms produce vitamin D2, while animals produce vitamin D3. Although vitamin D2 helps increase blood levels of vitamin D, it may not be as effective as vitamin D3.
So what’s next? What does vitamin D do when it enters our body? In structure, it is very similar to steroid hormones (for example, sex), so it can affect the activation of different genes, as well as our immunity. Vitamin D will be involved in the metabolism of calcium, which confirms its importance in the treatment of rickets and cardiovascular diseases, as well as attract immune cells to protect against external infections.
If you feel constant fatigue, get sick more often than usual, feel back pain, broken bones or are depressed – you should check the level of vitamin D in the blood.
But let’s look at the side effects that we are often silent about:
An overdose of vitamin D causes hypercalcemia – an excessive accumulation of calcium in the blood. If you do not start treatment in time, this condition can lead to excessive deposits of calcium in the soft tissues, which will provoke pain and damage to organs. With an excess of vitamin D, there are problems with the gastrointestinal tract, bone problems due to the active accumulation of calcium, and malfunctioning of the kidneys and liver. Increased thirst and urination may be noted.
Everything is good in moderation, which means that before you take what your friend advised you, or you saw in a pharmacy, you should consult a doctor and take a blood test.
Another common question is why take vitamin K in combination with vitamin D we already know?
One of the most important functions of vitamin K is to retain calcium in the bones and blood, the metabolism of which is responsible for vitamin D. Therefore, these two friendly vitamins should always be together.
How Much Do You Need?
Vitamin D is extremely important for general health. To have a sufficient amount of this substance in the body, it is worth remembering where it comes from, which means there is food rich in its predecessors, and be in the sun. Even if you are following a healthy diet, you may need supplements to achieve optimal levels of vitamin A in your blood. Nevertheless, avoid excessive doses, and for this, be sure to evaluate the level of vitamin D in the blood and do not drink it unnecessarily. In addition, make sure that you buy supplements from reputable manufacturers – this will help reduce the risk of accidental overdose due to incorrect labeling.
The amount you need depends on age; babies need around eight and a half to 10 micrograms per day, whereas adults and children from the age of one need 10 micrograms each day, according to the NHS.
If you are taking vitamin D supplements and you have any symptoms, see your doctor as soon as possible. Take care of yourself and listen to your body!