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Top 5 Benefits Of Vitamin D And How To Get More Of It In Daily Life

Top 5 Benefits Of Vitamin D And How To Get More Of It In Daily Life

Vitamin D or the “Sunshine” vitamin has become quite popular in the world of essential vitamins. In fact, recently, vitamin D has gained a reputation for being a miracle nutrient of sorts— boasting benefits of improving physical and mental well-being. But as more research emerges, just how vast the vitamin’s value is has become the subject of scientific debate.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin in a small group of compounds that includes vitamins D-1, D-2, and D-3. It can affect as many as 2,000 cells in the body. Technically, vitamin D isn’t a vitamin, but a type of hormone; it helps the body absorb calcium from food and plays a role in keeping bones strong, healthy and dense. It is difficult to get from food sources alone, but most people can synthesize it in their skin when exposed to UVB light, which is present in sunlight.

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5 Vitamin D Benefits

According to Dr. Robert Heaney, professor of medicine at Creighton University, [1] nearly every cell in the body needs vitamin D to function. It serves a variety of functions including maintaining optimal bone and muscle health, as well as having favorable effects on mental health and overall brain functioning. Below are five vitamin D benefits:

1. Helps fight disease and illnesses within the body

  • It assists in reducing your risk of developing multiple sclerosis, according to a 2006 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association [2]
  • It decreases your chance of developing heart disease, according to 2008 findings published in Circulation [3]
  • It helps to reduce the likelihood of developing the flu, according to 2010 research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition [4]
  • It assists in reducing the risk of cancer. Research [5] suggests that sufficient vitamin D levels in adulthood may significantly reduce the risk for many types of cancer, including colon, breast, ovarian, and prostate. Vitamin D is one of the most potent inhibitors of cancer-cell growth, and reduces the risk of cancer by increasing calcium absorption and cell differentiation, while reducing metastasis (the spread of cancer from one organ to another).

2. It helps fight depression

Research has shown that one of vitamin D’s benefits  is that it can play an important role in regulating mood and warding off depression. In one study [6], scientists found that people with depression who received vitamin D supplements noticed an improvement in their symptoms. Researchers also found a correlation between those who struggle with anxiety and depression and vitamin D deficiency.

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3. It can reduce the risk of developing Type II diabetes

Type 2 diabetes can lead to some devastating long-term complications, including nerve damage, heart disease, eye damage, vision loss, and kidney failure. Recent evidence suggests that vitamin D may play a significant role in reducing the risk for developing type 2 diabetes [7]—especially in those who are predisposed for developing this disease. Several studies have shown improvements in beta cell function and insulin sensitivity with higher levels of vitamin D. A recent study calculated the risk of developing type 2 diabetes and found those with the highest baseline levels of vitamin D had a 38 percent lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes compared to those with the lowest vitamin D levels.

4. It increases bone density and muscle function

When you think of strong bones, calcium most often comes to mind. Calcium is the major player when it comes to bone health and increasing bone mineral density, but vitamin D is an important factor in how your body absorbs and processes calcium [8]. Vitamin D is essential in ensuring calcium deposition occurs in bones, which makes them stronger and healthier. Additionally, vitamin D deficiency is relatively common in athletes and is associated with muscle weakness [9] and atrophy [10], specifically Type 2 muscle fiber atrophy. Skipping out on this vitamin is essentially  just as bad as skipping time at the gym.

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5. It promotes healthy hair and vibrant skin

This is the most superficial of all of the vitamin D benefits however, let’s face it, we all want to look young and hot and vitamin D is our ticket. “Vitamin D is a key ingredient for beautiful looking skin,” says New York dermatologist Dennis Gross, M.D. [11]. “Skin, like all organs, needs vital vitamins to function properly—and vitamin D is one of them.” Having sufficient vitamin D in the skin helps minimize acne, boosts elasticity, stimulates collagen production, enhances radiance, and lessens the appearance of fine lines and dark spots.

Getting Vitamin D

Very few foods contain copious amounts vitamin D naturally. Because of this, some foods are fortified –especially foods containing calcium–with this vitamin. A short list of foods [12] that contain vitamin D and that should be incorporated into your diet include:

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  • salmon
  • sardines
  • egg yolk
  • shrimp
  • milk (fortified)
  • cereal (fortified)
  • yogurt (fortified)
  • orange juice (fortified)

Sensible sun exposure (without sunscreen for up to ten minutes at a time) and supplements are two other ways to boost vitamin D intake. As with all things, there are side effects to taking in too much of the vitamin–especially for those with certain sensitivities– so always consult a medical professional before making any serious changes to your health regimen.

Featured photo credit: Theme Farmer via flickr.com

Reference

[1] Dr. Robert Heaney
[2] Journal of the American Medical Association
[3] Circulation
[4] American Journal of Clinical Nutrition
[5] Research
[6] study
[7] type 2 diabetes
[8] calcium
[9] muscle weakness
[10] atrophy
[11] Dennis Gross
[12] foods

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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