July is prime time for sunshine and, while you should always protect your skin with sunscreen, you should also make sure you’re soaking up some rays. Vitamin D, which we primarily get from sunlight, offers all kinds of awesome health benefits. People are spending more time inside than ever before, and as a result vitamin D deficiency is on the rise.
You don’t have to lay out in the sun for hours to get the health benefits of vitamin D. Just 10 minutes of direct sunlight each afternoon is plenty for most people. Sunscreen reduces the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D, so do not be afraid to hit the park for ten minutes sans sunscreen. Just be sure to protect your skin when you’re in the sun for long periods of time.
Vitamin D also comes from food (salmon and eggs are great sources) and dietary supplements, but it’s best to get it from all three sources.
Helps Build Stronger Bones
Women are at greater risk for osteoporosis and getting enough sunshine is a great way to combat this. Vitamin D helps you absorb calcium and phosphorus, which are essential for the growth and development of bones and teeth. Stronger bones will improve your fitness and help you live an active lifestyle as you age.
Reduces Risk of Disease
In addition to helping us build strong bones, a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that vitamin D helps keep your immune system healthy so you are less likely to get sick. It also reduces your risk for multiple sclerosis and heart disease. A 2004 study showed that women who took the recommended amount of vitamin D daily were 40 percent less likely to develop multiple sclerosis. Another study indicated that risk of heart disease was reduced by 49 percent.
Researchers are just now starting to research how vitamin D can help treat depression. While it’s unclear how vitamin D might make us happier, spending more time in the sun produces more serotonin. Increased serotonin has been shown to reduce depression, regulate sleeping and eating patterns and reduce anxiety. If you’re feeling blue try spending a little bit more time outside and let the sunshine chase your bad mood away.