Vitamin D ensures proper calcium absorption and keeps our bones healthy. It also intervenes in the maintenance of cardiac, neurological and metabolic health. Up to 50% of the world’s population is deficient in vitamin D. Lack of sun and a nutrient-poor diet are responsible for this deficiency.
What is the role of vitamin D?
Vitamin D does not only act at the bone level. In recent decades scientists have discovered its role as a regulator of countless body processes. This molecule is essential to keep our heart, brain and defenses in good shape.
How is vitamin D absorbed into my body?
Vitamin D accesses the body through food or is synthesized after exposure to sunlight. This molecule is inactive and must undergo a series of reactions before the body can use it. The active form of vitamin D is a hormone known as calcitriol.
This activation process involves the liver and kidney. Consult your doctor if you suffer from any condition that affects the function of these organs.
Your body may not be able to activate these molecules. In this case, vitamin D2 or D3 supplementation should be supervised by a professional.
The most effective way to ensure an optimal daily intake of vitamin D is sun exposure. If you prefer indoor activities or use sunscreen that blocks UVB rays, eat foods rich in vitamin D. You can also add a supplement to your diet to make sure your levels are right.
What foods are rich in vitamin D?
Foods provide a lower amount of vitamin D compared to production at the skin level. Still, we can find true sources of this molecule in certain food groups. Cholecalciferol (D3) is found in foods of animal origin, while ergocalciferol (D2) will be abundant in foods of plant origin.
The foods richest in vitamin D are those of animal origin. Oily fish, liver (chicken or veal) and egg yolk are rich in cholecalciferol. Vegetables are generally low in vitamin D, so vegans should look for alternative sources. For example, some mushrooms or artificially enriched foods.
Vegans and vegetarians should be aware that ergocalciferol is absorbed worse than vitamin D of animal origin. Fortunately, today there are supplements and fortified foods that offer an extra intake of this molecule. For example, mushroom species containing up to 200 IU of vitamin D per 100 g are cultivated.
Who should take a vitamin D supplement?
There is a debate about the need for vitamin D supplementation. It is estimated that 40-50% of people have some form of deficiency. Therefore, some experts advise giving vitamin D to the whole population. Other sources recommend giving a supplement only to certain groups:
- Over 55 years of age
- Strict vegetarians or vegans
- Dark-skinned people, especially if they spend a lot of time indoors
- Pregnant women (under medical supervision) and postmenopausal women
- Teenagers who spend a lot of time indoors
- Office workers, students, or people who are not exposed to sunlight
- Obese people
- People who have had bariatric surgery
- People with cardiovascular problems (hypertension, heart failure)
- People on a diet low in vitamin D from any cause
- People with kidney failure
We hope you found our article helpful in understanding this nutrient. Use this information to choose the right supplement for you and get all the benefits of vitamin D. If you supplement consciously and responsibly, you can enjoy a full, active and happy life.