Winter Solstice has passed, meaning the days are starting to grow longer, which means more sun. Aaah. Did you know that direct sunlight isn’t just good for the soul—it also provides the body with precious Vitamin D?
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to a host of health problems, including rickets, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, cognitive impairment, increased cardiovascular disease, depression, and asthma. According to Dr. Dan Hehir of the Telluride Medical Center, ongoing research has shown increased rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, and even multiple sclerosis in patients deficient in Vitamin D. “It seems this vitamin is more important in a variety of immunologic and metabolic processes in our bodies than was previously suspected.”
There are only three ways to get Vitamin D: dietary intake, vitamin supplements, and direct sunlight. Foods that are high in Vitamin D include fatty fishes like salmon and tun, fish liver oil, eggs, alfalfa, some mushrooms, and fortified milk and grains. It’s very difficult to get an adequate amount of the vitamin from a normal diet, says Hehir, but supplements are available at pharmacies and groceries everywhere, and the recommended dose for a healthy adult is 600 IU daily.
The cheapest and easiest way to get your dose of Vitamin D is from the shining orb in the sky. But often sunscreen, hats, long sleeves and pants, and a fear of the harmful effects of the sun keep us from getting the amount of sun that keeps us healthy. Hehir says that exposing bare skin to the sun for 10-15 minutes about three times a week should do it. Just don’t let your skin redden, and make sure to ask your doctor for a Vitamin D test added to your next blood screening. Enjoy the longer days, the extra sunshine, and the great outdoors. It’s good for you.