While longer sunlight exposure brings no extra benefit to our health coupled with the added risk to get skin cancer; however, it is still good to expose ourselves to sunlight for around 15 minutes a day for reasons that I am going to share now.
Times and again, we have often heard about vitamin D but I believe many of us may not know the intrinsic relationship between vitamin D and the sunlight. One thing for sure is that we need vitamin D for our body as it plays the role to absorb calcium from the food we eat. Another thing that we have to accept is that we need calcium for strong bones, and to maintain the level of bone mass to support the structures of our body. Besides helping to absorb calcium, vitamin D also plays a number of other roles, such as in making sure the muscles, heart, lungs and brain work well including reducing inflammation and lower our risk of cancers.
Although our body can make vitamin D, however, in order for it to become a proper vitamin D, we need ultraviolet light as part of the process to make that happens. The vitamin D molecules that are stored in our skin need the ultraviolet light from the sun to make the vitamin D molecules to become a proper vitamin D. Ideally, we need to expose our skin decently or as much as possible to intense sunshine without sunscreen for around 15 minutes a day for that process to be effective.
Just as important to know how to get Vitamin D, the following conditions can make you vulnerable to a lack of vitamin D as well:
- If you are with dark skin – people with dark skin are at higher risk as the pigment in their skin can block out some of the ultraviolet light for the purpose of making Vitamin D.
- Living in a place where there is little strong sun in winter – the weak sunlight is not intense enough to boost the conversion of vitamin D molecules to proper vitamin D. For example, the weak sunlight on a bright day of the British winter is not intense enough for this process to be effective.
If you are vulnerable to get enough vitamin D, I suggest that you factor this in when taking your foods. The best sources that we can get vitamin D can be from oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, tuna, and fish liver oils. For vegans, seeking products with added vitamin D such as cereals can be considered.
Tan Kok Hui
Nutrition Made Simple, Life Made Rich