Have you ever heard the phrase “soak up the sun”? The image painted from that saying might remind you of your favorite beach vacation or summers spent by the pool. But for me, I think about vitamin D, the Sunshine Vitamin. This association might seem a little strange to you but I’m a dietitian so it goes with the territory You might know some basic facts about this nutrient but I wonder if you really know all that it does for your body and why it’s so important that you get enough.
Vitamin D stands out from other vitamins that our body requires due to its ability to be absorbed through the skin. Exposure to sunlight allows for vitamin D to be absorbed through our skin and ultimately be transformed into an active form of the vitamin with some help from the kidneys. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, two minerals that form the matrix inside our bones that keep them strong. Very few foods naturally contain Vitamin D but there are some, such as milk, that have been fortified with the vitamin to help us get what we need.
So how much sun do we need in order to get the right amount of vitamin D? A general recommendation is to expose your hands, face, arms, or back to sunlight (without sunscreen) for 10-15 minutes at least twice a week. The amount of vitamin D produced by your body is dependent upon many factors including how much bare skin is exposed to sunlight, the time of day at exposure, and where you live in the world (how close you are to the equator).
We know that Vitamin D works hard to keep our bones healthy and strong, but you may not be aware of all of the other nutrients that work hand-in-hand with vitamin D to ensure that this happens. Magnesium, zinc, and vitamin K all aid vitamin D in ensuring that the calcium found in the food we eat is stored in our bones for optimal bone health. A lack of calcium in our intake leads to weak, brittle bones which could be representative of osteopenia or osteoporosis. Proper care of our body’s framework is essential to overall health and wellness. So in honor of this very important nutrient, take a moment this week to soak up the sun!
~Ashlee Overstreet, Supervisor of Dietetic Services