Did you know that 85 percent of Americans (and one billion people worldwide) have a vitamin D deficiency? The campaign against skin cancer has made us increasingly sun shy, and our overly processed Western diet doesn’t provide enough vitamin D to make up for hours spent in the shade. We’re not recommending that you slather on the suntan oil and bake your beautiful skin to a lobster shade of red, but we do stand by the 10-minute-a-day rule. Physicians agree: 10 SPF-free minutes of sun a day can protect against a host of problematic health conditions.
The Health Benefits of Vitamin D
The National Institutes of Health says that vitamin D defends against:
- • Cancer
- • Heart disease
- • Hypertension
- • Obesity
- • Type 2 diabetes
- • Depression
- • Cognitive impairment
- • Parkinson’s disease
- • Autoimmune disorders such as multiple sclerosis
- • Influenza
- • Bacterial vaginosis
- • Pelvic floor disorders
- • Bone conditions and increased risk of falls
Results from an eight-year study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that subjects with the lowest vitamin D levels had more than double the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease as subjects with the highest vitamin D levels.
Step into the Sunshine
Everything you’ve heard about sun damage is true. Harmful UVA rays increase your risk of developing skin cancer and inflict visible damage to your skin. Who wants more discoloration and age spots? However, your body does need to be exposed to UVB rays, which activate vitamin D production in the skin. Your body depends on vitamin D from the sun, which lasts twice as long as vitamin D you get from food.
Pay Attention to the Clock
Fair-skinned beauties require 10 minutes of sun exposure a day… without sunscreen! Those with darker skin have a built-in tolerance for the sun and can do with up to 30 minutes of unprotected sun exposure daily. If you’re spending more than the prescribed amount of time in the sun, then protect your delicate skin with a sunscreen of SPF 30 or higher. A sunscreen of SPF 30 decreases vitamin D production by more than 95 percent, but a full day in the sun demands double-duty protection.