You hear a lot about the dangers but not so much about the benefits of sunshine. While it’s critical to respect the sun (and enjoy it responsibly), that doesn’t mean avoiding it.
It is the sun that stimulates your body to produce vitamin D. This particular vitamin acts more like an essential hormone inside your body. Without it, a lot of vital systems are left hanging.
Around the world, approximately 1 billion people are deficient in vitamin D. In the United States alone, experts estimate that more than 40% of the population is deficient.
Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency
- Frequent illness (cold, flu, respiratory problems)
- Higher occurrence of infection and slower wound healing
- Low energy or general fatigue
- Chronic pain in bones, joints, or muscles
- Higher risk of depression (especially in older adults)
- Low calcium absorption resulting in loss of bone density
- Loss of hair (particularly in women)
In other words, if you’re not getting enough vitamin D, it can affect your physical health, mood, appearance, and even quality of life.
Supplements and vitamin D-enriched foods do help those with deficiency. Individuals with darker skin, people who live in perpetually cold climates, or those confined indoors must supplement and/or alter their diet to ensure they’re getting enough.
There’s a list of vitamin D-rich foods at the end of this article but you should know that even the best foods with the highest concentrations of vitamin D don’t have as much as the human body requires to function. If you supplement, it’s unlikely (even with quality supplements) that your body will be able to absorb and utilize all of it.
However, the most effective, efficient, and natural vitamin D booster is free and readily available. The benefits of sunshine are right outside your door (most of the time) and your body uses sunlight more effectively.
Vitamin D and Those Extra Pounds
Many studies link weight gain definitively to vitamin D deficiency. Researchers have only discovered in the last few years that fat-burning metabolism is boosted with careful exposure to the benefits of sunshine.
In a study published in The Journal of Investigative Dermatology, researchers discovered that subcutaneous fat burns faster with responsible exposure to the UV rays of the sun.
It’s important to remember that visceral fat that accumulates around your middle and surrounds your organs (the “spare tire”) is the true danger to your heart and overall health. Multiple studies from laboratories around the world have connected a deficiency of vitamin D to a higher risk of abdominal visceral fat.
The habits we have today – internet, streaming sites, video games – encourage us to stay inside, sitting, and staring at screens. It’s no wonder we’re getting sicker and sicker as a society.
There’s been a scientifically proven connection between insulin resistance, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and more to vitamin D deficiency for at least a decade. That’s because a primary benefit of sunshine is that it helps balance insulin and glucose levels naturally.
Foods with the Highest Concentrations of Vitamin D
- Fatty fish (tuna, mackerel, and salmon)
- Foods fortified with vitamin D (some dairy products, orange juice, and cereals)
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
There aren’t many so if you live in an area where the sun is hard to come by due to excessive cold or rain, consider supplementing. Do your research and find a product that offers higher absorption. Even if you live in a sunny climate, if you don’t go outside, you need to supplement or alter your diet for more vitamin D.
Your Daily Dose
Sunlight during summer months is a lot easier to get but it’s also when a lot of people overdo it with outdoor activities and forget to protect their skin. Remember! Respect the sun and be responsible…burning is not the answer and drastically increases your skin cancer risk.
Enjoying the benefits of sunshine on your bare skin for 15 minutes a day or 30 minutes twice a week is the limit without natural sunscreen – less if you have sensitive or extremely pale skin. Before ten in the morning or after two in the afternoon will give you gentle exposure that does the trick without as much risk.
You can also check out full spectrum lamps that offer the benefits of sunshine when getting outside is impossible or improbable for you.
As your body’s production of vitamin D increases, so does testosterone. This is a naturally occurring hormone that burns fat and contributes to lean muscle mass. It also fights depression and boosts your immune system.
You still need adequate quality sleep, good hydration habits, regular exercise, and a diet that fuels your body effectively…but a little time soaking up sunshine benefits will make you feel good physically and mentally.