Foods rich in vitamin D are very important for your overall health. This nutrient plays two key roles. One aspect ensures optimal mineralization of bones during growth, but also throughout their lives for their renewal. Another aspect modulates the intestinal absorption of calcium and contributes to the stability of calcium in the blood and tissues. Vitamin D foods are found in two forms: ergocalciferol, which is found in plants and cholecalciferol, which comes from animal products. Although Vitamin D belongs to the category of fat-soluble vitamins, it operates as a hormone. Our skin contains a precursor of vitamin D: 7-dehydrocholesterol. This precursor, under the action of sunlight, is converted into cholecalciferol (which has a structure similar to cholesterol).
Two steps are necessary to make vitamin D active when received through nutrient rich foods. The first occurs in the liver where it acquires a hydroxyl group. The second transformation occurs in the kidney where the molecule receives a second hydroxyl group. The molecule formed is calcitriol, the active form of Vitamin D. For the last step, the parathyroid hormone is needed.
Vitamin D is essential for us to absorb calcium and keep bones and teeth healthy. It allows the intestinal absorption of calcium and reduces the elimination of it through urine. It regulates calcium and phosphorus metabolism. Vitamin D foods appear to help in the treatment of psoriasis and increase our resistance to tuberculosis. It also protects against breast and color cancer.
It is not easy to determine dietary intakes of vitamin D because they are dependent on sun exposure. Recommended daily intakes in micrograms per day:
- 0-12 Months: 25 mcg (1000 IU /day)
- Healthy children and adults: 50 mcg (2000 IU/day)
- Pregnant women: 150 mcg (6000 IU/day)
It’s important to maintain proper vitamin d IU levels.
Who Is At Risk?
Those with insufficient sun exposure are at risk. This is often the case with babies, small children, pregnant women and the elderly. Seniors are particularly at risk as they usually don’t go out much and don’t consume enough vitamin D rich foods. Alcoholics and people with kidney, intestinal and liver disease are also put at a higher state of risk.
A severe deficiency of Vitamin D in children causes rickets (bone deformities). In adults, a deficiency results in osteomalacia (softening of bones due to a lack of mineralization). This disease is different from osteoporosis which causes weak bones and makes them porous.
Sources of Vitamin D Rich Foods
Nutritional yeast, mushrooms, wheat germ, fatty fish and fish oils are all foods high in vitamin D. For the vegetarian, choices are limited, but if they regularly consume these Vitamin D foods or supplements and spend time out in the sunlight, they do not have to worry. Sun exposure is by far the best source of Vitamin D. 15-30 minutes of sun a day can work wonders on your skin and will also give you the much required dose of vitamin D.
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