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Get your dose of the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ this summer

Aracaceae_under_the_sunlightIf there’s ever a reason for getting out in the sunshine this summer, it’s to top up your Vitamin D supplies. Taking Vitamin D from the sun is the most natural and relatively easy way to do it – even in the UK when summer doesn’t automatically mean sunlight!

Vitamin D plays an hugely important role in the body’s wellbeing. If you’re not familiar with the reason why, continue reading …

The top benefits to your health are:

1. It helps regulate the absorption of calcium and phosphorus into the body. Both are important to bone strength and muscle development. A body that’s calcium deficient can lead to osteoporosis and bone abnormalities.

2. It helps the immune system to function well and fight the risk of infection. It does this by alerting the body’s T cells, those that fight viruses and bacteria, to detect and kill any foreign objects they come across.

3. It reduces the risk of multiple sclerosis and heart disease. Medical researchers have for years been trying to connect the dots when it comes to Vitamin D and MS, and whilst it’s still being researched, it is widely believed that MS affects more people in countries furthest from the sunny equator – those who aren’t getting enough Vitamin D.

As for heart disease, again results are inconclusive, but studies suggest that having a vitamin D deficiency puts you more at risk of heart attacks, congestive heart failure, peripheral arterial disease, strokes, high blood pressure and diabetes.

4. It helps stabilise mood swings, anxiety and depression. Vitamin D plays an important role in the development of the brain and its function. Studies suggest that those lacking in Vitamin D are more susceptible to mood swings, anxiety and in some cases, mild depression.

How to top up your Vitamin D levels:

The obvious solution is direct sunlight. With summer time upon on, this shouldn’t be too difficult for most – although admittedly the UK can be rather hit and miss when it comes to summer sunshine, but let’s stay optimistic and assume plenty of sun soaked days ahead.

However this is where it gets a little controversial. To extract Vitamin D from the sun; sunscreen, clothing, age, size and skin tone all play a part in whether your body is able to top up its supplies or not. And obviously it goes without saying that you shouldn’t over-expose yourself to the sun’s rays for long periods without some form of protection, and certainly should avoid the mid-day hours. But 10-15 minutes of exposure morning or later in the afternoon when the sun is weaker, will give your body the boost it needs.

Without sunshine, how else can you make sure you have sufficient Vitamin D?

  1. Food intake
  2. Supplements

Let’s start with food. There are some great sources of Vitamin D in certain foods, such as:

  • Oily fish – salmon, sardines, mackerel, herrings, tuna.
  • Fortified cereals – often packed with vitamins. But be careful as many are also packed with sugar, so read the label and choose wisely.
  • Eggs – provide a small amount of Vitamin D along with protein providing plenty of energy for a great start to the day.
  • Fortified diary & soya products – milk (regular and soya), cheese and yogurts are packed with calcium and often fortified with Vitamin D. Again read the labels to choose your products well.
  • Caviar – a surprising addition to the mix, but caviar contains a huge amount of Vitamin D and is often served in Sushi making it more affordable than you may think.

If sunlight and certain food types don’t top you up enough, it may be time to turn to supplements.

There are two forms of Vitamin D available in supplement format – D2 & D3. It’s Vitamin D3 that you get from sunlight and food sources that give you the benefits we talked about earlier, so when purchasing a supplement, make sure it’s the right one!

Have a happy, healthy summer everyone!

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