It is common knowledge that vitamins are a very important class of nutrients, needed for the proper functioning of the body. Vitamins deficiency poses threats to the body in so many ways. Among the known vitamins, our focus in this article is to discuss vitamin D and the foods that are high in vitamin D.
Vitamins are micronutrients, which means that unlike the macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats), micronutrients are required in small amounts. There are 13 vitamins in nature and can be classified as either water-soluble or fat-soluble. Vitamins cannot be synthesized by the body and so they have to be obtained from the diet. Each vitamin is important for specific reasons in the body and a deficiency of a vitamin, leads to a wide range of health challenges.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is very vital for the normal functioning of the body. Vitamin D deficiency is detrimental to health and as such, it is important to include foods rich in vitamin D in our diet. The Recommended Dietary Allowance for adults 19 years and older is 600 IU (15 mcg) daily for men and women, and for adults >70 years it is 800 IU (20 mcg) daily.
The table below illustrates the recommended daily intake of Vitamin D for various ages:
|Demographic||Recommended daily intake|
|Infants 0-12 months||400 IU (10mcg)|
|Children -18 years||600 IU (15 mcg)|
|Adults up to 70 years||600 IU ((15mcg)|
|Adults over 70 years||800 IU (20mcg)|
|Pregnant or lactating women||600 IU (15mcg)|
Vitamin D Is a very unique vitamin in that the human body can produce vitamin D as a response to sunlight exposure. However, a person can also boost their vitamin D intake through certain foods or supplements.
There are two different types of vitamin D. They are, vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) and vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol).
Vitamin D is very important because it has the following functions:
Functions Of Vitamin D
1. For Strong Bones: Vitamin is necessary for building strong bones. Soft bones in adults as a result of vitamin D deficiency in adults is called osteomalacia while in children, it is called rickets.
2. In Calcium Absorption: Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium from the bloodstream. Vitamin D, and calcium, helps build bones and keeps the bone strong and healthy. Weak bones are known to lead to osteoporosis, which is the loss of bone density. Vitamin D helps to regulate the amount of calcium and phosphate in the body system.
3. For the proper functioning of the parathyroid gland.
4. For Immune Function. An adequate intake of vitamin D helps to support good immune function and also reduces the risk of autoimmune diseases.
5. Vitamin D helps to regulate mood and decrease the risk of depression. Research has shown a link between depression and a lack of vitamin D, which suggests that proper intake of vitamin D would fight depression.
6. Vitamin D helps strengthen the muscles. This means that it is particularly important for the elderly, as it can help them maintain muscular support, as stronger muscles would reduce the risk of falls, which is more prevalent during old age.
Vitamin D Deficiency
Not getting enough vitamin D can contribute to health issues including:
- Heart diseases and high blood pressure.
- Infections and immune system disorders
- Cold and flu
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Gastrointestinal diseases
Read Also: 12 Foods For Low Blood Pressure
Sources Of Vitamin D
There are 3 major sources of vitamin D. They are:
- From direct sunlight: The body creates Vitamin D from direct sunlight.
- From consuming foods that are high in vitamin D
- By taking vitamin D supplements.
As earlier stated, although the human body can produce vitamin D from exposure to sunlight, it is possible to suffer vitamin D deficiency. This is particularly so because of certain conditions or factors that may affect a person’s ability to receive the adequate amount of sunlight or other factors. Below, are the risk factors that put a person at risk of suffering a deficiency of vitamin D:
- Lactation: Pediatrics recommends that all breastfed infants receive 400 (IU) per day of oral vitamin D.
- Skin Colour: Skin Pigmentation affects the body’s ability to absorb ultraviolet B (UVB) rays from the sun. It is essential for the skin to absorb sunlight so as to produce vitamin D. For example, research has shown that black people with more melanin pigmentation need more sunlight to make vitamin D, than persons with white skin.
- Lack Of Sun Exposure: People who live in northern latitudes or areas of high pollution, work night shifts, are homebound or live in big cities or cities with plenty of tall buildings which block off rays from the sun (in general, are not able to get adequate exposure to sunlight), are also at risk of vitamin D deficiency.
- Age: The body’s ability to synthesize vitamin D decreases with age. Older adults may also spend more time indoors.
- People with conditions that limit fat absorption: Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin. This means that the intake of vitamin D depends on the gut absorbing dietary fats. Conditions that limit fat absorption can decrease vitamin D uptake from the diet.
- People With Obesity: High levels of body fat can limit the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D from the skin.
The factors discussed above can lead to the lack of or underproduction of Vitamin D in the body. However, it is important to note that there are other sources of Vitamin D through which one can be provided with the daily recommended intake of the vitamin. The body’s vitamin D needs can be gotten from other sources such as consuming foods rich in vitamin D or by taking Vitamin D supplements. However, for this article, our focus is on the consumption of foods rich in vitamin D.
Foods That Are High in Vitamin D
One of the sources of Vitamin D is from the diet. Naturally, few foods are high in vitamin D. Foods high in vitamin D include the following:
- Fish that are fatty like tuna, mackerel, and salmon
- egg yolks
- beef liver
- fortified milk
- fortified cereals and juices
Among the popular foods eaten in Nigeria, some foods that are high in vitamin D include:
This is a very important example of food rich in vitamin D. in addition to its health benefits or nutrients which include proteins and fats which are essential body-building nutrients, fish is also known for its vitamin D content. Popular fishes in Nigerian foods, rich in vitamin D are trout, sardine, tuna and mackerel.
Eggs are an interesting example of foods high in vitamin D. Eggs are unique because of their ability to blend with other foods and enhance their vitamin D content. Also, it is important to eat the egg yolk because it contains most of the nutrients in eggs.
3. Fish Oils:
Having discussed fish as an example of foods high in vitamin D, another point to note is that fish oils are one of the sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D is more concentrated in fish oils. Fish oils like cod liver oil. One teaspoon of cod liver oil has about 450 IU, which is 75% of the recommended daily allowance.
Milk is another example of food rich in vitamin D. Note that the vitamin D content varies substantially in different types of milk.
They are very healthy and nutritious sources of vitamin D. In Nigeria, people often use them as a garnish for soups and other meals. Slippery Jack mushroom which is very common in Nigeria is a good source of vitamin D. It is also an excellent option for those who are vegan or looking for a non-animal source of vitamin D.
6. Fura Da Nono:
This is a local type of gruel that is made from millet balls (fura) and cow milk (nono). This is one of the foods rich in vitamin D. Fura is extremely pack and loaded with vitamin D. fura da nono is a popular dairy product in Nigeria. It is also rich in many other nutrients such as calcium, phosphorous, and riboflavin.
7. Beef Liver:
Another rich animal source of vitamin D is Beef liver. It contains more protein than red meat and is a healthier option.
Other examples of foods rich in vitamin D are:
- Sweet potatoes
It is also important to include at this point, that most healthy fat sources are very good examples of foods high in vitamin D.
Read Also: Nigerian Foods For Weight Loss
Vitamins are a very important class of food nutrients necessary for optimal body productivity. Vitamins are minor nutrients, which means that they are required by the body in small amounts. The vitamins are being divided into fat and water-soluble vitamins. Vitamin D is very important to the body for various reasons, especially for its calcium regulation abilities. The three main sources of vitamin D are; contact with sunlight, consuming foods that are high in vitamin D and taking vitamin D supplements. Examples of foods rich in vitamin D are eggs, milk, fish and broccoli.