Vitamins have been thrown around so commonly in advertisements that it becomes difficult to accurately distinguish this nutrient, its subcategories and the benefits each possess. Vitamin D in particular is one of the most flexible among the lot and flies under the radar more than one might think. Vitamin D has several forms that offer different ranges of benefits. Here is a deeper look at the health benefits and sources of different forms of Vitamin D.
What Is Vitamin D?
Otherwise known as Calciferol, Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is normally commonly consumed in certain foods or when UV rays from the sun makes contact with the skin and begins a sort of synthesis of the nutrient. In order to process this vitamin, hydroxylations are necessary for absorption and conversion. The liver is responsible for converting it into hydroxyvtamin D, known as Calcidiol. The kidney also undergoes through this process and produces dihydroxyvtamin D, also called Calcitriol. Essentially, the gut is the primary source of absorption that allows the nutrient to do a number of things for the body.
Different Forms of Vitamin D
Adolf Windaus, a renowned German researcher, discovered 3 different forms of vitamin D, which he referred as Vitamin D1, Vitamin D2, and Vitamin D3.
Vitamin D1 is an assortment of compounds instead of a pure vitamin D product. The other two forms (D2 and D3) are significant for humans.
Vitamin D2 is manmade. This synthetic form of Vitamin D is called ergocalciferol. Vitamin D2 is widely available in fortified foods and plant sources. Vitamin D3 can be consumed through vitamin D supplements like oral tablets, capsules.
On the other hand, Vitamin D3 is known as cholecalciferol. It is mainly the internal form of Vitamin D that human produces. Vitamin D3 is found in the vitamin D supplements of diverse strengths. Vitamin D3 comes from animal sources such as egg yolks, fish oil, fish, liver, etc.
Good for the Bones
Working in tandem with calcium, one of Vitamin D's most prevalent benefits is its role in regulating calcium and phosphorus within the blood. The two are recipes for the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth. Naturally, calcium and Vitamin D are synonymous with each other and a deficiency in the latter can lead to the softening of bones, especially among children. Even with a surplus of calcium, the gut's ability to process it highly depends on Vitamin D's involvement.
It Can Fight the Flu
In 2010 and 2018, various studies have shown that Vitamin D has the ability to fight off the flu. As a relatively common illness, this perk alone should be an attractive reason to up the intake of this nutrient. Specifically, the lack of Vitamin D was shown in a 2017 study; demonstrating that the deficit of this nutrient can lead to respiratory infections. By no means can a Vitamin D surplus safeguard the body when one already has the flu, but regularly taking Vitamin D can help reduce the risk significantly.
Reduces Risk of Allergies for Children
As their bodies develop, children tend to be more susceptible to allergies, however Vitamin D can reduce these risks considerably. Studies have shown that the deficiency of the nutrient has contributed to tolerance over potential allergic reactions. Foods rich in Vitamin D are ideal staples for babies between four to six months of age as the early years will determine how the body develops immunity. Also, Vitamin D is shown to have anti-inflammatory effects of glucocorticoids which is a booster to asthma immunisation.
It Can Help Strengthen Muscles
Vitamin D doesn't exactly function as a source of muscle growth like protein does, but it does preserve the health of muscles overall. It means preserving the integrity of muscle fibres and general movement for those who face muscle deterioration such as the elderly. For that demographic, having a good amount of Vitamin D is critical in order to avoid potential fall risks at a senior age. These falls can consequently lead to disabilities due to poor muscle maintenance which is where this nutrient arguably sees its greatest function.
Sometimes known as the "Sunshine vitamin", Vitamin D (Specifically, Vitamin D3) has possibly one of the easiest ways to get into the body, that being standing under the sun. Interestingly enough, when the nutrient comes from the sun, it stay in the body for twice as long. It is difficult to find the right amount of exposure to the sun, but can be roughly gauged as long as the skin does not suffer from sunburns or drastic tans. Despite how enticing this sounds, this source should not be a replacement for food sources and serve as a complementary role.
If you're a fan of seafood, getting your fix of Vitamin D3 will be a treat. Seafood like tuna, oysters, sardines, anchovies and mackerel are all rich sources of the nutrient and arguably provide one of the highest count per serving. A can of salmon can provide up to 386 IU of Vitamin D which is already part of the regular daily intake. These seafood options are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, therefore moderation will be key to pile up without taking the drawbacks of excess.
Mushrooms are another treasure trove of Vitamin D2, should you wish to stay far away from seafood. Mushrooms can also create their own Vitamin D when exposed to the UV from sunlight, however their Vitamin D is ergocalciferol. Not as effective as the ones humans produce, but still high in quantity and certainly a valuable source when in need of a fix. Different mushrooms will have varied amounts of Vitamin D per serving, but it is still worth committing to.
Classically, egg whites have been the favorite among many fitness buffs for its rich protein count, while egg yolk has been notorious for spiking cholesterol levels. While the concern has validity when egg yolk is consumed in excess, under the healthy amount of intake, it is an excellent source of Vitamin D3. Depending on how the environment that the chickens are raised in, the vitamin count differs between each egg - varying between two to five percent of the recommended daily dose. It may not offer the highest vitamin count, but it is a flexible ingredient that is worth more attention.
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