Sunshine is a natural source of Vitamin D which is a must for children and adults alike. Know about the many benefits of this sunshine vitamin from this article.
By Smitha Suresh
When I was studying nutrition over ten years ago, we learnt that the function of vitamin D was to support the absorption of minerals like calcium and phosphorus. Nowadays, vitamin D is referred to as a hormone, as it is manufactured in our body from sunlight. Though we live in a sunshine-rich country, over 40% of Indians are estimated to be deficient in vitamin D.
Research suggests that maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D during pregnancy, nursing, infancy and childhood lowers the risk of the child developing Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes and auto-immune disorders. Vitamin D is also required for:
A niggling back/joint pain may not be the only indicator of vitamin D deficiency. In fact, a lot of otherwise healthy adults and children have been found to have low vitamin D levels in blood. So if you want to test the vitamin D level in your body, get your serum D3 levels checked. If deficient in vitamin D, opt for supplementation under your doctor’s guidance.
Take note: Do not stay for a long period under the sun without covering up or applying sunscreen.
The entire family can get exposed to sunshine to a minimum of twice a week without sunscreen for at least 15 minutes (or less if your skin burns easily). If you have a dark complexion, make it 20 minutes. Make this a conscious, regular practice. Make sure that you expose at least your arms, hands, neck, face and feet.
You can encourage your children to play outdoors. Many city schools lack playgrounds, so children are invariably indoors. You will have to work out a solution to expose them to the sun, at least during weekends and holidays. If your child’s school has included outdoor play, just make sure the child is not overexposed to the sun during the hottest time of the day or else your child may suffer from dehydration or sunstroke.
If you live in northern India, stock up on sunshine during spring, summer and autumn. In winter, except on foggy days, you should be able to catch some rays during peak daylight hours.
Take supplements only with your doctor’s consent and only in the dosage that is recommended.
Unfortunately, foods are not a great source of this vitamin.
Some foods that are relatively high in vitamin D are:
Even for non-vegetarians, food intake can contribute only a maximum of 10% of our vitamin D requirement; so the main source still remains sunshine!
Smitha Suresh is a nutritionist from Chennai
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