Skin cancer. Wrinkles. Sunspots. Freckles. These words may initially bombard your mind when you first hear the word “sun.” But we need the sun and it’s key that we don’t ignore the major health benefits of sunlight exposure. I’m challenging you to not shy away from the sun this summer!
National Institutes of Health explains how Vitamin D is a fat- soluble vitamin that is commonly known as the “sunshine vitamin.” Gaining a sufficient supply of vitamin D is among the most important of these sunshine benefits. What makes Vitamin D unique is that when your body obtains its supply of Vitamin D, it’s converted into a hormone and plays a vital role in calcium homeostasis and metabolism. Aside from fish, eggs, and mushrooms, very few natural foods contain vitamin D; however, it is produced in the body in response to the sun’s Ultraviolet Rays.
Vitamin D aids the body in absorbing calcium and phosphorous. It’s also important for bone mineralization, cell functions, and nerve and muscle function. Adequate amounts of Vitamin D help prevent rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.
This week’s Be Better challenge is to go outside and enjoy the sunlight. Be smart and wear sunscreen, but enjoy the summer’s sunny days and soak up that Vitamin D.
It’s also important to be aware of pesticides! Chemistry World explains how researchers believe that pesticides could be suppressing individuals’ Vitamin D levels, resulting in deficiency and disease. One way to limit the impact of pesticides is to eat organic foods.
Did you know that some people may need more Vitamin D than others?
You’ll need more Vitamin D:
- if you are olive-complexioned or darker
- if you work indoors
- as you age
- if you are overweight
- if you don’t exercise regularly
Mental Health Benefits
Another cool fact is that sunlight actually increases levels of a natural antidepressant in the brain. Yes, that’s right… the sun can elevate your mood! It can ease mild depression because on sunny days, our brains produce more serotonin than on darker days. Without sufficient Vitamin D, people often experience symptoms of lack of energy or motivation.
Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is one form of depression that typically arises in the fall and continues through the winter. A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Georgia links low Vitamin D levels with a greater risk of developing Seasonal Affective Disorder. Although the exact cause of this disorder is unclear, one major hypothesis is the reduced sunlight exposure interferes with the body’s biological clock. Thus, mood, sleep, and hormones are affected. Another popular theory is that the low sunlight exposure causes an imbalance of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin.
Vitamin D can even mitigate stress levels. With daily responsibilities and our crazy busy lives, stress is something we all face every day. But serotonin, sometimes referred to as the “happy” hormone, is triggered by sunlight and can help increase our mood and reduce our stress.
This week take a picture of you soaking up the June sunshine. Don’t forget that every time you complete a challenge, $1 is donated to To Write Love On Her Arms. Using the #bebetter52 hashtag and posting the photo on social media will result in a $2 donation.
80% of Americans have insufficient levels of Vitamin D. So grab a pair of sunglasses and hat, enjoy the nice weather this summer, and soak up that Vitamin D.