By Sherazade Khan
The sun is shining a little too brightly outside, the air conditioners are drying us out like chuwaraas (dates), and there’s a general sense of laziness in the air. Could it just be the weather or is there something more to it? We talk to Muhammad Umer Qasim – a nutritionist and a trainer at a renowned corporate gym – to find out which is that one nutrient that most Pakistani women lack?
Surprise, surprise; It is Vitamin D!
Vitamin D deficiency is the most common deficiency seen in Pakistani women as per Qasim. It affects the body overall as it helps absorb calcium and other important minerals that help keep the bones strong.
What happens when your deficient in Vitamin D?
Simply put, your bones become weak, there is an increased risk of depression, and catching colds.
“If your vitamin D levels are low, it doesn’t really matter if you’re consuming calcium. It is going to waste,” he explains. “When your body lacks vitamin D [as an alternative] it starts taking calcium from your bones, resulting in weakening them.”
This is why vitamin D deficiency leads to osteoporosis, thinning of bones, and increases risk for fractures. Not only that, vitamin D also prevents depression and helps the immune system fight colds and the common flu.
How do you know you have low levels of vitamin D?
If you often find yourself feeling down and fatigued, then get your Vitamin D levels checked. You might be suffering from a deficiency of this essential nutrient. Severe symptoms also include bone and muscle pain, especially in the lower back, hair loss and depression.
The best way to find out if you’re running low on vitamin D is to get a blood test.
So how can we incorporate Vitamin D in our diets?
“The best sources for vitamin D are egg yolks, fatty fish (like salmon and tuna), beef liver and cheeses,” shares Qasim.
On top of that we can consume fortified cereals and dairy products. It’s worth noting that younger women absorb vitamin D better in the diet than those over fifty, who need larger doses in supplements to treat deficiencies.
Is Sunlight the biggest source of Vitamin D?
Only when you are not wearing sun screen and are light skinned, because the pigment in dark skin blocks sunlight.
You cannot sit behind a glass wall and absorb vitamin D. You need to be out in the direct sun for at least 20-25 minutes in the summer months to get a good dose of vitamin D.
What other nutrients do we lack?
Vitamin C, which helps make red blood cells, and can be absorbed from citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, lemons etc), strawberries, kale and red peppers, is the second essential vitamin that Pakistani women are low in.
Do remember that (like vitamin D) calcium and vitamin C go hand in hand, so if you’re not getting enough vitamin C, your body cannot absorb the calcium you’re consuming.
Vitamin E deficiency ranks third.
This vitamin helps body to get rid of toxins, fight PMS, and prevent eye and brain disorders.
The easiest way to consume it is through supplement, but you can also incorporate it into your diet, so make corn oil, sun flower seeds and nuts your best buddies.
“Vitamin B groups and Folic Acid are very important for pregnant women as they help prevent birth defects,” says the nutritionist while talking about yet another common deficiency found in Pakistani women, especially in the rural areas.
Cure? Make leafy greens, beans, eggs, grains, meat, and liver part of your regular diet.
Remember, your body is a temple, and you must treat it as one so that it can best serve you!