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Vitamin D for managing malnutrition: Eat these foods to up your vitamin D levels

An expert tells us everything you want to know about vitamin D.

Written by Aishwarya Iyer |Published : May 7, 2018 6:04 PM IST

Vitamin D, known as the sunshine vitamin has beneficial effects and is well known for its improving bone and muscle health. Earlier studies have also shown that a normal intake of vitamin D can cut down on your risk of early death significantly in people who have cardiovascular disease. The research showed that the risk can be lowered by 30%.

'A recent research has indicated that vitamin D can help in improving the overall health of malnourished children and help them learn languages easily. This finding could be a game-changer in the management of severe acute malnutrition, which affects 20 million children worldwide currently,' said Padma Shri Awardee Dr K K Aggarwal, President, Heart Care Foundation of India.

The maximum production of pre-vitamin D3 occurs between 11 am and 2 pm in the day. However, most people avoid being in the sun during this time in order to escape the heat. 'A significant portion of our skin should not be overly covered as this can limit direct exposure to beneficial UV rays. But there is a need to make people aware of optimizing their vitamin D and calcium intake through locally available foods over different seasons. This specifically holds true in youngsters.'

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A small amount of sun exposure can help the body in manufacturing its own vitamin D. About 5 to 30 minutes of sunlight twice a week to your face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen will enable you to make enough of the vitamin.

'Low levels of Vitamin D can harm bones, leading them to become thin, brittle, soft or misshapen. It is equally important for the heart, brain, immune function, and much more.' Read: Who is at risk of vitamin D deficiency?

To enable better uptake of Vitamin D in children, a genetic assessment of how this is absorbed can be done. This will help in starting supplementation early. One of the primary culprits for reduced absorption is fat and thus it is a good idea to minimize the intake. The current vitamin D mantra is that 40 days in a year for at least 40 minutes. One should expose 40% of the body to the sunlight either after sunrise or just before sunset.

What are the other sources of Vitamin D?

Read: 12 health risks of vitamin D deficiency.

Cod liver oil

Obtained from the liver of the cod fish, this oil is considered extremely healthy. It helps ease joint pains and can be taken in capsule form or oil form.


Dried shiitake mushrooms are excellent sources of Vitamin D3 as well as Vitamin B. They are low in calorie and can be consumed daily.


Salmon is another good source of D3, Omega 3 and protein.

Sunflowers seeds

These seed not only have Vitamin D3 but also monounsaturated fats and protein.

'Over exposure to sunlight should also be avoided. Sunlight is essential for synthesis of vitamin D and has beneficial effects on mood. However, ultraviolet (UV) radiation is responsible for several acute and chronic detrimental effects on human skin, including sunburn, photoaging, and skin cancer.'

Onecan adopt simple sunscreen application to the exposed areas and follow "teaspoon rule." It involves the application of approximately 1 teaspoon (visually measured) of sunscreen to the face and neck area, a total of 2 teaspoons to the front and back torso, 1 teaspoon to each upper extremity, and 2 teaspoons to each lower extremity.

Also remember, that sunscreens should be applied 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure to allow the formation of a protective film on the skin. It is recommended to wait for at least a few minutes (ideally, 10 to 20) following sunscreen application before dressing. Reapplication at least every two hours is necessary.

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