Did you know that as of 2016, it was found that approximately 70 to 90% of the healthy Indian population is suffering from Vitamin D deficiency? And before you say “Not me!”, these numbers are irrelevant of age, sex, profession and urban/rural settings.
There are high chances that you can be one those suffering from Vitamin D deficiency! So if you are looking for Vitamin D rich foods that can be easily accessible in an Indian kitchen, here is your list.
The best Vitamin D foods for Vegetarians in India are:
- Cow’s milk
- Soya products
- Yoghurt or curd
- Vitamin D fortified products like various types of milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals
The main source of Vitamin D is sunlight. When the sun’s UV rays fall on our skin, Vitamin D synthesis is triggered.
However, in this day and age, most of us lead a sedentary lifestyle and thus the amount of us exposure has dramatically reduced for us.
Many studies done all across India shows that we are at a high-risk because, with darker skin, the ability to synthesize Vitamin D is somewhat reduced. And this may also be because of our social and cultural practices which allow limited sun exposure.
Why is Vitamin D essential for us?
Vitamin D is necessary for the maintenance of Calcium levels in our blood. Vitamin D and Calcium together are required for having healthy bones, a healthy nervous system, muscle contractions and other general cellular functions in each cell of your body.
The active form of Vitamin D allows Calcium absorption in your intestines. And this is very very important for your health.
Similarly, Vitamin D is also important for Phosphate and Magnesium absorption in your body.
A 2003 study states that Vitamin D is critical for development, growth and healthy maintenance of a healthy skeleton from birth till death.
Hence we can even say that Vitamin D deficiency can cause Calcium and Phosphate deficiencies in our bodies.
To summarize, here are a few reasons why Vitamin D is sooooo important for us:
- For stronger bones and teeth
- To prevent osteoporosis and arthritis
- For a healthy heart
- For promoting a healthy nervous system and brain functions
- Vitamin D provides resistance to some cancers
- For boosting our immunity and keeping us energetic all day long
- For keeping mental health issues at bay
What are the main causes of Vitamin D deficiency
- Most of us living in urban areas lead a sedentary and indoor lifestyle leading to limited sun exposure. Because of this, our body is not able to synthesize enough Vitamin D which leads to its deficiency.
- Social and cultural practices can also lead to limited sun exposure
- The amount of pollution in today’s age is a huge problem as we already know. This also hampers the amount of Vitamin D that our skin is able to produce when exposed to the UV rays in sunlight.
- In people with darker skin, the amount of melanin is more and this reduces the ability of the skin to produce Vitamin D.
- Pregnancies in already nutrient deficient women increase the chances of Vitamin D deficiency in both the mother and child.
- Breast-fed infants also face a higher risk of Vitamin D deficiency.
- Vitamin D deficiency is also more likely to occur in older people as their skin is not as efficient as it should be in producing Vitamin D.
- Obesity can also be a factor as it may hamper the circulation of Vitamin D in our bodies.
What can Vitamin D deficiency do to us?
Vitamin D deficiency has been called a “silent epidemic” for the Indian population. Wondering why?
Here are a few horrible things that severe Vitamin D deficiency can do to us:
- Fatigue and lack of energy
- Thin, misshapen and brittle bones and teeth
- Depression, anxiety and stress
- Frequent muscle pain
- Increased risk of diabetes due to intolerance to glucose
- Asthama mainly in kids
- Cognitive inabilities for elderly people
and many more….
Here is a list of Vitamin D rich foods that you and your family can start having more of from now because, better safe than sorry, isn’t it?
1. Cow’s Milk
Cow’s milk is one of the most common forms of milk consumed in Indian households. And it so happens that it is one of the best sources of Vitamin D for Vegetarians in India.
Studies show that the amount of Vitamin D in cow’s milk may vary depending on the breed and what they are fed. But if you can get hold of fresh cow’s milk, then it can be really good for you and your family.
So try to increase the amount of milk that you and your family have so that you can see an improvement in your Vitamin D levels.
2. Soya Products
Soya products like soya chunks and tofu are also sources of Vitamin D that are easily available in the Indian markets.
A quick tip here would be to read the labels and look for Vitamin D while purchasing these products from the market, especially tofu. Some tofu available in the market are fortified with Vitamin D which makes them even better!
Mushrooms are lesser-known but very good sources of Vitamin D. They are the only edible plant-souces of Vitamin D.
Did you know that mushrooms can synthesize Vitamin D when exposed to UV light or sunlight, just like us humans? This is what makes it a rich source of Vitamin D.
But unfortunately, mushrooms available to us in the markets are often not grown in ample sunlight. They are usually grown in darker environments which can make them almost Vitamin D-less.
Certain brands of mushrooms available in markets are thus exposed to UV rays and it would beneficial for us to have these more often.
4. Yoghurt/ Curd
Yoghurt or dahi as we call it in Indian households has numerous health benefits and one of which is its Vitamin D content.
Studies show that yoghurt made from natural cow’s milk can be one of the Vitamin D sources for us vegetarians, although this amount is not significant.
So start today by including more yoghurt in your diets so that you and everyone in your family is benefited.
5. Vitamin D fortified products like various types of milk, orange juice and breakfast cereals
Fortification simply means infusing certain foods with Vitamins or essential nutrients so that the chances of deficiencies of these foods are reduced.
Unfortunately, awareness about of fortification of food items and production and consumption of this is not as prevalent in India as it is the US and Canada.
Studies have been done which suggest that fortification of affordable and readily available food sources can be one of the best ways to combat this deficiency in our country.
So how can we as women do our part?
It’s simple. Many leading brands in India have been following Vitamin D fortification for some of their products like milk, curd, orange juice, health drinks for children, breakfast cereals for adults and kids and many other similar products.
So the next time you are in the supermarket looking for any of the above products, study the labels and look for Vitamin D content in it. This simple step can improve the Vitamin D levels of you and your family.
What else can you do avoid Vitamin D deficiency?
Sunlight is the best source to obtain Vitamin D. But it is not as simple as standing in the sun every day because there are many other factors in play like pollution, age, skin colour, skin pigmentation, etc.
So although having more sun exposure doesn’t guarantee an increase in your Vitamin D levels in today’s age, we can still take some measures and try to take advantage of the ample amount of sunlight that our country gets throughout the year.
You may start by intentionally staying in the sun for short periods of time throughout the day. But remember that overexposure can also be harmful to us so it is important to not overdo it.
One more thing to keep in mind is that glass cuts out the UV radiations of the sun which are responsible for the synthesis of Vitamin D. So standing behind a glass window and sun exposure behind windows in your car are of no use!
- Vitamin D deficiency in India
- Vitamin D Supplements in the Indian Market
- Vitamin D fortification of foods in India: present and past scenario
- Vitamin D Part 2—Research
- 6 Good Sources of Vitamin D for Vegetarians
- Vitamin D Deficiency in India: Prevalence, Causalities and Interventions
So these were some of the things that you can start doing today so that you and your family move one step farther from getting Vitamin D deficient.
So you have any other food sources for vegetarians in mind? Please let us know in comments below!