Sunscreen, Sun Exposure and Vitamin D
“Never leave the house without sunscreen on!”
“Make sure you get at least 15 minutes of direct sunlight a day.”
What, if anything, represents a healthy balance between the two? While sunscreen protects the skin from everything from skin cancer to wrinkles to age spots, it also blocks the absorption of Vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin.” Vitamin D can help prevent heart disease, depression, osteoporosis, breast cancer and colon cancer, while maintaining bone health, a balanced sleep schedule and a healthy weight. Technically, Vitamin D is a “prohormone” which encourages the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous in the body and is key to healthy development throughout our lives.
In the winter in Minnesota, we can’t absorb Vitamin D from the sun due to its position in the sky, which is why it’s important to stock up during these long, sunny summer days. Just six days of sun exposure can make up for almost 50 days of no exposure, according to WebMD. While you should wear sunscreen as a general rule, short exposure to direct sunlight can boost your health and mood. If you’re fair-skinned, 10-15 minutes of sunlight on your arms and legs three to five days a week is generally ample, although people with darker skin require more sun time.
Where else can you stock up on Vitamin D? A good multivitamin or Vitamin D supplement, milk, fortified orange juice, salmon, swordfish, herring and many other types of fish, eggs, dried shitake and button mushrooms, yogurt, and (unfortunately) cod liver oil. And if you’re concerned about your Vitamin D levels, you can ask your doctor for a Vitamin D test, which measures how much of the storage form of Vitamin D is in your blood, or purchase an in-home test.