By Jessica Sanders

Vitamin D is a necessary nutrient for your healthy body and essential for life.

  • It’s needed to regulate calcium and phosphorous by helping the intestines absorb nutrients.(Phosphorous, second to calcium, is the most abundant mineral in your body and is responsible for how you store and use energy, as well as grow and repair new cells.)
  • It plays a significant role in bone strength and structure. As you can imagine, being deficient in this important vitamin is not good for your body, and can lead to brittle, thin or misshapen bones.
  • It also protects against breast, prostate and colon cancer.

What do low levels of Vitamin D mean?

Vitamin D benefits

A higher chance of sickness and illness, increased risk of cancer, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

While your diet can provide a small amount of D, sunlight makes up for most of what your body is lacking. But, how much sunlight should you be getting? And how does it work once it gets in your body?

How Vitamin D Works

When you spend an afternoon in the sun, it’s hard to tell whether Vitamin D has made its way into your system. However, Fitness Magazine explains, “… The nutrient is mainly produced from ultraviolet B radiation in sunshine. Those rays penetrate our skin and transform cholesterol-like molecules there into a preliminary form of D that circulates in the blood.”

From there it moves to the kidney and liver, where it’s transformed into an active hormone called calcitrol. This is when it begins to regulate calcium, storing it in your bones, which makes them strong. And that’s just the beginning of the many benefits of Vitamin D.

  • Vitamin D aids in preventing inflammation in your body. Such inflammation has been linked to heart disease and blood pressure dangers.
  • This vitamin triggers genes within your body that inhibit cancerous cell growth.
  • It has been linked to a lower incidence of cataracts and studies cite that high levels of Vitamin D are linked to a lower risk of macular degeneration.
  • As levels of D rise, your immunity is boosted because this vitamin is integral proper function of T cells.

Vitamin D from the sun, otherwise called D3, not only provides the most benefits in the shortest period of time, but it is better absorbed in our bodies. Consider how you can get healthy amounts of sun to enhance your levels of Vitamin D.

Getting Enough Sunshine

While your body can improve levels of vitamin D from supplements, and food such as, fish, fortified cereals, ham, eggs and mushrooms, it’s not enough, which is where the sun comes in. Unfortunately, health advocates have been pushing people to cover up with sunscreen for years, citing risks of skin cancer.

Though too much unprotected time sun can be dangerous, short bouts have long been known to be good for the body. explains, “The Ebers Papyrus, one of the oldest surviving Egyptian medical texts, recommends exposure to the sun, and some of the most distinguished figures in Greek, Roman and Islamic medicine used sunlight to prevent and cure disease.”

But, exactly how much sun do you need? USNews reported, “Experts say going outside for 10 minutes in the midday sun—in shorts and a tank top with no sunscreen—will give you enough radiation to produce about 10,000 international units of the vitamin.”

After you’ve been out in the sun, make sure you wait as many hours as you can before showering. Why? After UV exposure, your skin produces a powdery substance that is then absorbed into the skin and converted to vitamin D by the body. If you wash this off too early, you interfere with the amount of vitamin D made, and hence do not get the full benefit.

Sun Safety

Ultimately, a minimal amount of unprotected sun is enough to reap the Vitamin D benefits.

If you’re fair skinned, a few minutes in a bathing suit, at noon, is enough. However, those who are already tan or of Hispanic origin can spend 15 to 20 minutes in the sun, without damage, while reaping the benefits of vitamin D.  A good rule of thumb: the darker your skin, the longer time you need in the sun to see the benefits.

Vitamin D is necessary to your body’s level of calcium and phosphorous. It also protects against cancer and inflammation. So, whether you’re eating vitamin D rich foods or not, time in the sun is what your body needs to reap the most benefits. Get a safe amount of unprotected time in the sun for healthy bones and an even healthier body.

Question of the Day: Do you take vitamin D? Or do you prefer sunshine?

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