Vitamin D deficiencies are a common problem in the U.S., with more than 40% of adults getting inadequate levels of the nutrient. The body produces the vitamin after the skin has been exposed to sunlight, so getting enough sun is important to maintaining healthy vitamin D levels. Of course, too much exposure to UV rays presents risks, including skin cancer. For this reason, we must learn how to get enough sunlight to make vitamin D without overdoing it.
The Risks of Low Vitamin D
There are many functions in the body supported by vitamin D. For instance, the nutrient prompts the cells in the intestines to absorb calcium and phosphorus, which is essential to bone health. And, without vitamin D, the risks of cancer, depression, osteoporosis, and muscle weakness are increased.
Vitamin D is notoriously difficult to get from diet alone, since it’s only found in a handful of foods, such as egg yolks, swordfish, canned tuna, and cod liver oil. And, eating these foods once in a while wouldn’t suffice; you’d have to eat them almost daily to get enough vitamin D. Exposure to sunlight is, therefore, a simple and effective way to get vitamin D.
Getting Vitamin D Through Sunlight the Safe Way
Research suggests that the body’s ability to make vitamin D peaks around midday, which is also the point in time when UV rays are strongest. Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a long time outside to reap the benefits. Just 13 minutes of midday sun exposure is enough for Caucasian adults to maintain healthy vitamin D levels. People with darker skin might need a bit more exposure. This will allow adults to meet or exceed the recommended daily dose of 600 IU. It’s also believed that going out at noon could also be safer. Afternoon sun exposure appears to come with an increased risk for dangerous skin cancers.
Of course, it’s not always possible for people far from the equator to get ample vitamin D from the sun alone. People living in Boston, MA, for example, will struggle to make any vitamin D from UV rays alone from November to February. In the winter, it’s therefore important to get the critical nutrient from food and supplements.
Ultimately, while UV rays present their health risks, controlled sun exposure is believed to be beneficial to overall health. Whether you get it through the sun or supplements, vitamin D is essential to helping your body perform its best.
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