Like plants, we also need a healthy dose of sunshine. And while soaking (reasonably) in the sun has a lot of benefits to our health, there’s one health benefit that sunshine can provide that we can’t get anywhere else. Can you guess what?
Of all the important vitamins needed by our body, there is one vitamin that is somewhat special. Most of our vitamins are obtained from food sources, but this special vitamin is made by our bodies instead of solely getting it from food sources. This special vitamin is Vitamin D. It is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s stored in our liver and fatty tissues. So if you’re on the curvy side, rejoice! More body fat means you have the ability to absorb vitamin D and keep it from being used within our body.
Another thing that makes Vitamin D special is that it behaves more like a hormone. Our bodies convert sunshine into chemicals that are used by the body. In particular, when we are exposed to UV-B sunshine rays, a cholesterol in our skin (7-dehydrocholesterol) is converted into vitamin D3. It gets into your bloodstream and then goes into the liver and the kidney where it becomes activated as a key steroid hormone called Calcitriol.
Vitamin D boosts our mood
Vitamin D is important not only our skeletal structure, but also our blood pressure, immunity, mood, brain function and ability to protect ourselves from cancer. It also plays a huge role in a number of physiologic processes, including calcium absorption, innate and adaptive immunity, and homeostasis of a number of organs.
Sun is still the best
Sun exposure is still the best and surest way to get vitamin D. Sure, you can get some vitamin D by eating fish, taking cod liver oil, and drinking fortified milk, but it is impossible to meet your vitamin D requirements through food sources alone. However, a mere 10 mins under the sun lets you absorb a whopping 10,000 units of Vitamin D.
Unfortunately, our lifestyles do not afford us much time outdoors and we do not get enough sunshine anymore. We sit inside office cubicles for 8 hours a day and when we’re out, we avoid the sun altogether. That's how we get vitamin D deficiency. The best way to get vitamin D is a healthy salute to the sun. So go out and get some sunshine!
- Regular walks out in the sunshine are better than an occasional sunbathe. Here’s the thing: short but regular exposures of 15 to 30 minutes (without sunblock) have been found to be much more effective and safer than occasional, but long, sun exposure (like sunbathing on a vacation).
- The optimal times to get your vitamin D, according to a pan-India study is between 11am and 1pm. The wavelength of ultraviolet B (UVB) rays is 290-320nm during this period which is essential for skin to make vitamin D.
- Go outside! You can’t make vitamin D when sitting behind a glass window, because the UVB rays necessary for Vitamin D production are absorbed by glass.