I never thought it possible to appreciate sunny days as much as I do since coming back to England! The sun brings with it light, warmth and an amazing positive energy which really brightens up our lovely little island. It also brings the ability for us to make an absolutely vital nutrient – Vitamin D.
I am constantly amazed at the intricacies of design which come with the human body. Its ability to manufacture the Vitamin D it needs when bare skin is exposed to the right kind of sunlight is just another one to add to the list. There are many factors which influence the amount of vitamin D your body is able to make, and knowing a little more about them will allow you to optimize your intake.
Type of sun & time of day
Optimal Vitamin D intake occurs through exposure to Ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. These are most intense at midday and therefore the best time for exposure is roughly between 10am and 2pm – the closer to 12pm the better. UVB rays become less intense as the sun gets closer to the horizon.
Length of exposure
A general recommendation for exposure time around midday is 20 minutes. A more personalized recommendation would be just before your skin turns a very slight shade of pink! Your body can only make a limited amount of Vitamin D daily, so exposure beyond this point would not be beneficial. Getting sun burnt is detrimental as opposed to positive so general recommendations are to either cover up, move to shade or use a natural, non toxic sunscreen.
It’s good to remember that using sunscreen largely negates the metabolism of Vitamin D. Saying that there’s also a very fine line between maximizing exposure and minimizing the risk of sunburn. Following the above advice of 20 minutes before application is sensible and appropriate for most.
Other factors which may influence vitamin D intake are the time of year (season), colour of your skin, latitude and altitude.
Dietary sources of vitamin D include oily fish, egg yolks, liver and fortified foods, however it is questionable whether you would be able to get enough through diet alone during the winter months. Personally, I believe that everyone living in the UK should supplement with Vitamin D from October through to March to help maintain levels until we’re joined by brighter days. Vitamin D supplements come in tablet form, drops or a sublingual spray, however whenever you are considering taking supplements of any kind, you should always make sure they are pure and in food state.
My advice… If it’s a beautiful sunny day, take the time to roll up your sleeves, put your sunnies on and go for a lovely stroll in the sun. You won’t regret it!