Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient for your body that helps regulate the amount of calcium & phosphorus in the body, ensuring stronger bones. While there are several vitamin D-rich foods such as salmon, tuna, swordfish, etc., its main source is sunlight, which is scarce when the winter season arrives.
But does that mean you need more vitamin D in winter? Read along to find out. This blog talks about the link between sunlight and vitamin D, the benefits of Vitamin D, symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, some common sources, and most importantly if you need more vitamin D in winter.
What Exactly Sunlight has to do With Vitamin D?
Before jumping to the Vitamin D benefits, knowing how exactly sunlight responds to Vitamin D synthesis is important. Simply put, Vitamin D is produced when your body gets exposed to UV rays. Striking of these rays from the sun is simply the process of Vitamin D synthesis.
Since winters make it difficult to have exposure to sunlight, the reaction process and synthesis of Vitamin D slow down. This way, your body is deprived of Vitamin D during winter.
Additionally, older people, people with darker skin (as they block the UV radiation), and breastfed infants are the three main populations that are found to be more prone to Vitamin D deficiencies, according to studies.
Importance and Benefits of Vitamin D in Winters
Basically, this fat-soluble vitamin is responsible for regulating several activities of your body. Calcium absorption, for instance, is maintained and controlled by Vitamin D. The lack of calcium absorption may result in conditions like osteoporosis otherwise.
Other than this, Vitamin D is also vital for your proper cell growth, immune response, and neuromuscular function. According to a medical microbiologist and immunologist, Vitamin D has a lot to do with immune cells. It strengthens your body's defenses against pathogens and enhances its capacity to fight disease.
It has been found to be highly efficient in preventing diseases like rickets in children. And according to Cleveland Clinic, a lack of vitamin D can result in several health-related problems.
What are the Possible Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?
Dr. Sudha Menon, Director of Internal Medicine at Fortis Hospital in Bengaluru, claims that darker skin pigmentation, sunscreen use, full-sleeved clothes, and less sunlight exposure contribute to reduced Vitamin D intake or Vitamin D deficiencies. And five major symptoms of Vitamin D deficiencies are:
- Decreased bone density
- Decreased immunity or susceptibility to infections
- Frequent body pains
Note: The above-mentioned symptoms do not give you 100% certainty of Vitamin D deficiency. These symptoms may or may not be the result of some other disease.
Do you need to Load up on Extra Vitamin D in Winter as Compared to other Seasons?
Short days and lack of sunlight in winter make it essential to take extra Vitamin D. In contrast to summer; you cannot soak your body in the sun throughout the cold season to obtain Vitamin D.
Winters make you more vulnerable to infections due to less exposure to the sun and insufficient Vitamin D formation. Therefore, it's important to look into your Vitamin D intake and nutrition in winter.
Notably, not all of the foods you eat contain Vitamin D. Let's learn about some vitamin D-rich foods below.
Also check: Winter diet for a healthy immune system
What are the Major Vitamin D Sources?
Moderate sun exposure can help raise your levels naturally without needing supplements. However, it becomes difficult during winter, and you have to rely on food and supplements. Major foods which contain a sufficient amount of Vitamin D are:
Fish liver oils and fatty fish flesh (like salmon, trout, tuna, etc.) also act as the best sources of Vitamin D. Cooked salmon contains almost 71 percent of DV.
Eggs are also a wonderful source of nutrition, especially the middle yolk part. The yolk doesn't consist of a good amount of protein but is also a source of healthy fat and vitamins. The yolky part contains almost 37 IU of Vitamin D.
Other than eggs and fish, there are food products that, however, don't contain Vitamin D naturally but are fortified with it. For example, cow and soy milk. These are excellent sources of calcium; however, they work well for Vitamin D intake after fortification.
Mushrooms, a relief to vegetarians, is a rich source of Vitamin D. The process of synthesis of Vitamin D in mushrooms also occurs on exposure to UV light. Mushrooms contain almost 136 IU of Vitamin D.
All in all, when it is impossible to obtain the necessary amounts of Vitamin D from the sun, such as during certain life stages like pregnancy, fortified foods and dietary supplements can be of great help.
What is the Daily Requirement for Vitamin D?
The Institutes of Medicine in the United States suggests 600–800 IU each day for adults.
Also, to bring the level of Vitamin D to summer levels, the dosage of 600 IU of Vitamin D would work best for the body. And that level could be maintained either from foods or supplements.
Since a vegetarian diet usually contains less amount of Vitamin D, adequate intake becomes even more challenging for vegetarians. So, if you are a vegetarian and unable to fulfill the Vitamin D daily requirement of 15mcg each day, try adding a Vitamin D supplement (expert-recommended) to your diet. Vitamin D supplements come in various concentrations, so seek expert advice before you add any supplement to your daily diet.
Vitamin D, or the sunshine vitamin, has multiple roles to play in your body. And as you're at risk of suffering from vitamin D deficiency during winter, you must consume vitamin D via food sources and supplements. This way, you'll be able to keep vitamin D deficiency at bay.
However, if you think you're experiencing symptoms of vitamin D deficiency, make sure to get it diagnosed by an expert.