How Vital is Vitamin D?

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From the desk of Dr Nandita Shah

Supplements! Do you take them? Do you need to take them? Why should someone who is eating healthy even think of them? Through the course of my work, I found out that if we always choose the highest quality of food, we do not need supplements. None, perhaps, except for vitamin B12 and vitamin D.

The deficiency of these two vitamins is not limited to ‘vegans’. Almost anyone in urban India these days is deficient in vitamin D, unless they have taken supplements, because of the tremendous air pollution. Vitamin D is the sunshine vitamin. It is actually a hormone made by the direct action of the sun's rays on the skin. But if we do not get enough exposure to the sun or if there is something that comes in the way between our skin and the sun, our body is unable to produce it. The smog in our cities is indeed a barrier.

Vitamin D is fat soluble and is stored in our body. Both excess and deficiency of vitamin D can cause problems. Therefore it’s best to check the levels and supplement as necessary. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium and other vital functions, including sleep and mood. It is equally essential for organs such as the skin. Its deficiency also impedes the healing of auto immune diseases.

Lack of both vitamins B12 and D are a result of our modern lifestyles and the resultant impact on the planet. With the rapid deterioration of the environment, it’s possible that other deficiencies can arise in the future. We need to be vigilant even while ensuring that we do not over supplement..


An experience that taught me a lot about Vitamin D

I never imagined I would be vitamin D deficient. I live close to the beach in a relatively rural area of India and travel a lot on bike.  My skin is exposed to the sun. Yet, after 50 years of relatively healthy teeth, I found myself with a cavity. After being away from dentists for so long I had to visit one! Since I take such good care of my health and my teeth, I felt a bit defeated. But I was determined to find out why I developed the cavity. It was a wake-up call. I got my vitamin D levels tested and found them lower than normal. And, all along, I had thought I was getting a fair amount of sunshine just because of where I live!

The experience taught me a lot about this vital vitamin. I learnt that receptors are around our eyes and that if we wear sunglasses our body is tricked into believing that it’s not sunny. This can cause other parts of the body to behave inappropriately even causing sunburn. I learnt that darker skin, like mine, needs more exposure to the sun to absorb vitamin D. I also understood that calcium deficiency is usually because of vitamin D deficiency and acid yielding foods and not because of a lack of intake of calcium.

Calcium tablets should never be prescribed or taken – they only cause kidney stones and calcification of arteries. Deficient calcium intake is unknown. Dairy is not a good source of calcium either as it’s acid yielding in the body.

We just need to make sure that we get enough of the vital vitamin D.

Rainbow Salad with Creamy Balsamic Vinegar Dressing 

Raw is one of the best ways to tap in the sun's energy. The day we eat more raw foods and less of cooked meals, we can actually feel a spurt of energy. Well, its simply because we have got the sun's energy from the raw and since we have eaten less cooked food, we have used less energy for digestion.

This yummy salad is not only pleasing to the palate but to the eyes as well as it's replete with nature's colours.


  • 1 cup shredded green cabbage
  • 1 cup shredded purple cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1/4 cup each shredded red, green and yellow bell peppers
  • 1/4 cup grated carrots
  • 1/4 cup coiled green peas
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped celery
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped spring onions
  • 1/4 cup each finely chopped white and red horse raddish
  • 1/4 cup each finely chopped green and yellow zucchini
  • 1/4 cup each red and yellow cherry tomato halves   


  • 1/2 cup silken tofu
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tbsp date paste
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • sea salt to taste

Granish with

  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tbsp sunflower seeds


Combine all the salad ingredients in a large bowl and chill for 1 hour. Mix all the dressing ingredients in a blender with a little water to get the dressing consistency. Toss the salad with the dressing and garnish with chopped parsley and sunflower seeds and serve.

Serves 10-15

Food for the mind


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Vitamin D deficiencies are commonplace                                   

Vitamin D is critical for our overall health, particularly if we are to have strong and healthy bones. The best way to get vitamin D is to expose our bare skin to sunlight. However, most of us do not get adequate amounts of the vitamin as we are not out in the sun long enough or because our use of sunscreens, clothes, windows or even smog gets in the way. The next best solution is to have supplements.

Its vital to get tested for vitamin D and supplement if required. Further information is available at

Make sure you are not vitamin D deficient as lack of it can cause the following problems:

1. Osteoporosis and osteopenia, which leads to cavities, brittle nails and easy fractures

2. Muscle weakness aches and pains

3. Depression, schizophrenia

4. Sleep disorders

5. Diabetes

6. Prostate, Breast and Colon cancers

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This newsletter was compiled by SHARAN Head of Mumbai, Reyna K Rupani, She facilitates the Six Weeks to Health & Weight Loss program and also conducts health talks for schools, groups, corporates and more.

Edited by Vasanti Sundaram, Bangalore who has also benefitted from the SHARAN programmes, and now spreads awareness of the benefits of plant based lifestyle through her talks.

Sanctuary for Health and Re-connection to Animals and Nature (SHARAN) is a non-profit organisation with the goal of spreading awareness about holistic health and an ecologically sustainable compassionate lifestyle.

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