Remember that cute little six-something boy who featured in a TV ad for leading brand of malt drink sermonising "Ismein mein hai Vitamin D jis se doodh ka calcium waste nahin hota…" You know what even at that tender age he used to give us "tip of the lifetime".
Researches in recent years on micronutrients, their role and supplementation have proved Vitamin D is the "new age sanjeevani".
In my practise over the years patients of all ages have come with health problems related to insufficient/deficient Vitamin D. Symptoms ranging from fatigue, painful limbs to unreasonable muscular spasms, brittle bones, frequent sprains, recurrent fractures and in worst condition osteoporosis that worsens with the onset of chilly winters. In the hurry to get rid of these symptoms, what they don't realise is the " power of everyday diet" and the importance of Vitamin D.
Wonder what's the hullabaloo about Vitamin D?
Well, Vitamin D is an essential fat-soluble vitamin that our own bodies manufacture when exposed to sunlight (ideal time being mornings).
Active form of Vitamin D in the body helps in the absorption of calcium and phosphorus from food in the gut and re-absorption of calcium in the kidneys. This in turn helps in increasing the flow of calcium in the bloodstream to help strengthen bones, skeletal muscles and teeth.
It also is responsible for cell-to-cell communication throughout the body thus, being very important for maintaining neural health and cognitive function.
Not only this, new researches emit light on Vitamin D being highly beneficial as a mood booster, it is anti-carcinogenic (curbs cancer growth) and is also anti-inflammatory (relieves pains).
But India is a tropical country, rich in sunlight and you have no reason to be Vitamin D deficient…
You need your Vitamin D levels checked...
1. 'Coz you are brown/dark skinned. Presence of the pigment melanin that gives a dark tone to skin reduces the skin's ability to make Vitamin D even in the presence of adequate sunlight.
2. 'Coz staying in air-conditioned homes, offices and schools, limits your exposure to sun.
3. Your diet has been low in fats and dairy for long time or you are vegan.
4. If you suffer from kidney dysfunction or have a medical issue that affects the intestine's ability to absorb nutrients from the food ingested, then the Vitamin D level becomes questionable.
5. If you are obese and on a weight loss programme without supplementation, then Vitamin D is extracted from the blood by fat cells making you deficient.
Wanna win over this large looming danger called Vitamin D deficiency?
We are already living in a world of compromised food quality, people chasing fad diets, homemakers outsourcing cooking and traditional foods not being cool enough for anyone. Felt guilty as charged?
Don't hyperventilate, pause and take a U-turn to your grandma's way of running the kitchen.
1. Banking on dairy
a) Buy full-cream milk and use it if you have kids below 12 years of age.
b) Feed your children fresh malai (milk cream) as a side dish, sandwich spread or a dip instead of diet mayonnaise (saves you lot of money on grocery bill per month as well).
c) Including homemade curd, paneer and butter takes care of daily protein and Vitamin D intake in your diet without any extra effort.
d) Knead the dough in empty milk pan that is greased with fresh cream to maximise utility of everyday milk you buy and also be a flag-bearer against wastage of food.
e) Use homemade desi ghee for children, liberally. However, limit the use to 1tsp daily for those who are obese/overweight, diabetic or have high cholesterol levels or heart ailments.
2. But, we don't do dairy. Not an issue, you still have tonnes of options.
a) Vegetarians should include whole grains, legumes, nuts, nut oils and dry fruits in daily diet.
b) Non-vegetarians have added options of eggs (with yolk), meat, fish and poultry depending on family's palate.
c) Vegans too should not feel left out. They have options like certain kinds of mushrooms like portabella mushrooms, soymilk, nuts, and milk obtained from various nuts (like almonds, cashews), in original form or fortified.
3. Bliss of fortification
a) Even if on diet, one must include at least 25-30gms of fats (including invisible fat from legumes, nuts and cereals) in daily diet to enable Vitamin D absorption. This practise also helps in tackling yet another prevalent problem - constipation.
b) Lately, all brands of refined oil, cereal, butter, cheese even yogurts have been fortified with Vitamin D to help you meet your daily recommended dosage. Learn to check the food labels to help you choose judiciously.
c) Doing grocery is a fine art.
Last, but not the least, take supplements if need be. If you experience any of the symptoms stated above or have an inkling go see your physician and coax him to probe your vitamin levels, especially that of Vitamin D.
Centuries old proverb says it all, "Prevention is better than cure ".
Deficiencies can take away so much from your life, so why not nip them in the bud? And all you need is to eat right.
Diet is a wide spectrum word that unfortunately has become limited to losing weight, flat tummy and six-pack abs. But, diet is your therapy!