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Are You Getting Your Vitamin D?

Updated on January 4, 2012
The dreaded rays of the sun.
The dreaded rays of the sun.

Vitamin D plays a key role in human health. Some experts believe that it's one of the most healing substances known to human kind - and our skin makes it for us free of charge! Unfortunately, most of us are not getting enough of it. Our society's obsession with staying out of the sun has actually resulted in widespread deficiency of our sunshine vitamin as well.

Some folks might think that they could get enough vitamin D from their diet. However, we also tend to shun foods that are good sources of vitamin D.

The best animal food sources of vitamin D are the fatty fishes: think fish liver oils (like cod liver oil) or a serving of herring. You also get vitamin D in the best form for absorption - D3. But when it comes to taste, this is not the most appetizing option.

Most people don't realize that the very best plant food source of vitamin D is the lowly mushroom. You get 2700 IU of vitamin D for a single 3 ounce serving. You'd have to take two tablespoons of cod liver oil to get the same amount. Keep in mind though that mushrooms contain D2, which is not as well utilized by the body as D3.

We need to get more of this important vitamin if we are going to stay healthy. It's critical for more than our bones and our immune systems. Lack of this vitamin has been linked to a variety of conditions, including high blood pressure, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, infertility, and cancers of the breast, prostate and bowel.

The thing is: unless you are going to take multiple tablespoons of cod liver oil or eat mushrooms constantly, you are never going to get the amount of vitamin D that you'll get from even minutes of sun on your body's skin every day.

Sunning safely

The sun's rays are comprised of different kinds of light: UVA and UVB are the dreaded burning rays. But UVB doesn't just burn you - it is also the best trigger for your skin to make vitamin D.

You get the best bang for your buck's worth of sunlight if you sun during the right time of day. This means targeting midday when the sun's rays are strongest. Keep in mind that most doctors say that this is also when the sun's rays are most damaging - and we always hear a lot about cancer in relation to the sun. However, vitamin D will actually help to prevent some forms of cancer, so the right approach is to get enough sun to make your vitamin D while avoiding sunburn.

No one advises laying in the sun all day, slowly roasting every possible square inch of skin.

However, to make vitamin D, you do have to be outside without sunscreen on - so your skin tone is vitally important. If you have the palest skin and burn easily, you might have to stick to 5 to 10 minutes of sun a day at midday. If you have the darkest skin tone and never tan, you will need a longer exposure - 30 minutes or more. The trick is to get maximum vitamin D for your time spent in the sun, without over exposure to harmful rays.

The reason that people with the darkest skin tone need more sun is that they have natural sun blocking built in. It's called melanin - your skin's pigment - and it absorbs UV rays. Melanin is your body's first defense against too much sun. It's the same substance that results in a tan in lighter skinned people.

If you are getting too tanned, you are getting too much sun. In fact, some dermatologists argue that your skin should never tan! While this seems a bit extreme, given that our skin does have some built in self-protection, we do have to consider that skin cancer rates are increasing, due to the effects of human chemicals on our planet's natural sunscreen - the ozone layer. 

The problem is that our depleted ozone layer does not protect us from sunlight as it should. The ozone layer has been reduced by human-made chemicals, including banned CFCs and others. As a result, the ozone layer is thinner than it was even a few decades ago and more of the most harmful UVB spectrum now reaches our skin. This has been directly linked to the increase in certain skin cancers. So, get good quality light to produce your own natural Vitamin D and don't overdo it.


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    • Kimberly Bunch profile image

      Kimberly Bunch 8 years ago from EAST WENATCHEE

      Great Hub! Here's one for you that you might be interested in:

    • MoniqueAttinger profile image

      MoniqueAttinger 8 years ago from Georgetown, ON

      We don't have to burn to get good vitamin D. Just get out there and get a nice healthy exposure at the time when your skin will make the most of it! That will also help your body to build its natural stores of vitamin D... ;-)

    • profile image

      Tess Rousseau 8 years ago

      I was so depleted of vitamin D, that I was put on a dose of 5000 IU's per day by an endicronologist. I had no idea that I wasn't getting my needs met by the sun, so I endorse the idea of getting out in the "rays" for the alloted time. Again another good article....keep on writing!

    • MoniqueAttinger profile image

      MoniqueAttinger 8 years ago from Georgetown, ON

      RGraf - LOL! You now have the ammunition to prove your case for all the fungus you want! ;-)

    • RGraf profile image

      Rebecca Graf 8 years ago from Wisconsin

      I didn't know that about the mushroom. Now, the hubby can't pick on me for eating that "fungus".

    • MoniqueAttinger profile image

      MoniqueAttinger 8 years ago from Georgetown, ON

      Thanks, C.S. Alexis! I decided to write this because my family was sick very frequently last winter - after a summer where we got much less sunshine than usual. My research turned up the fact that we needed more, particularly to ensure good vitamin D stores in our bodies for winter! And there is no single better way to get vitamin D than enjoying the sunshine in a smart way. We've also decided to include more vitamin D foods in our diet - I personally love mushrooms so it's not a hardship to eat more of those! ;-)

    • C.S.Alexis profile image

      C.S.Alexis 8 years ago from NW Indiana

      Your hub subject matter is great, well rounded and interesting. Thumbs up for sunshine!