After spending so much time indoors, you may be eager to go outside, enjoy fresh air and soak up Vitamin D from sunlight. However, make sure to be mindful and protect yourself against UV rays. July is UV Safety Awareness Month which promotes the use of sun protection and discovering multiple ways to absorb Vitamin D to improve health.
The National Center for Biotechnology recognizes Vitamin D as a prohormone. This means that it’s an endocrine hormone that has a wide range of influence throughout the body. There are Vitamin D receptors in every tissue and organ. The two major forms are D2 and D3. D2 is largely human-made and added to foods. D3 is synthesized in our skin via sunlight and is also consumed through eating animal-based foods.
The National Academy of Medicine recommends that healthy adults need on average, 600 IU of Vitamin D daily until the age of 71. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey of 2005 to 2006 found that over 40% of adults have a D3 deficiency. A simple blood test can detect whether your levels are healthy or deficient.
3 Ways to Absorb Vitamin D Safely
1. Absorb Sunlight
Vitamin D is nicknamed the ‘Sunshine Vitamin’ because D3 predominantly uses ultraviolet B (UVB) light to synthesize in the skin. Simply going out for a 15-minute walk in the sunlight twice a week is a sufficient source of D3 for light skin tones. Darker skin tones may need extended exposure to process melanin.
Dr. Holick recommends the following best practices to safely absorb sunlight:
Choose the Best Time to Go Outside
Choose the right time of day to go out and absorb Vitamin D. If your shadow is longer than your body height, your body can’t make D3. Going outside between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. is the optimal window for significant sun exposure.
Holick helped develop the dminder app to recommend optimal sun exposure times. The app uses multiple factors including time of day, location and skin type to suggest the best time of day for your unique body type to absorb UVB light. Consider using the app to track your exposure and prevent sunburn.
Protect Your Face and Ears
Your face and ears are the most vulnerable to sun-exposure. Try to wear light-colored, lightweight materials that do not absorb as much sunlight. Wear a wide-brimmed hat to shade your head, face, and neck.
Protect Your Eyes
Looking directly into the sun can cause long-term damage to your eyes. However simply exposing your eyes to sunlight can also have harmful effects. When your outside or even driving a car, wear sunglasses labeled “UV400” or “100% UV Protection.”
Protect Your Skin
Aim for 10-15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure to your arms, legs, abdomen and back. This short amount of time will provide daily dose of Vitamin D that can increase your health. After 15 minutes, apply sun protection such as a 30-SPF or higher sunblock every two hours.
2. Eat Salmon
If you prefer to stay indoors, you can also absorb Vitamin D from food. Salmon is a popular fatty fish that contains Vitamin D. According to the USDA Food Composition Database, a 3.5-ounce serving of farmed Atlantic salmon contains 526 IU of Vitamin D, or 66% of the recommended daily value.
However, keep in mind that eating more salmon is not a cure-all, comprehensive solution. Michael Holick, the leading authority on Vitamin D says, “You cannot get an adequate amount of Vitamin D from your diet alone.”
3. Take Vitamin D Supplements
Holick also recommends taking Vitamin D supplements in appropriate doses for adults and children. When it’s too hot to go outside in the summer, or when sunlight exposure is limited in the winter, supplements are a recommended source of D3.
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