Vitamin D is a unique and essential nutrient that promises great health benefits, yet most people don’t get enough of it.
What makes vitamin D unique is that it is a vitamin and also a hormone your body can make from the sun. Despite the ability to get vitamin D from food and the sun, an estimated 40%-75% of people are deficient. The sun is your best source of Vitamin D. Vitamin D is made from cholesterol in your skin when it’s exposed to the sun. That’s why getting enough sunlight is very important for maintaining optimal vitamin D levels.
The sun's ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit cholesterol in the skin cells, providing the energy for vitamin D synthesis to occur. Vitamin D has many roles in the body and is essential for optimal health. For example, it instructs the cells in your gut to absorb calcium and phosphorus; two minerals that are essential for maintaining strong and healthy bones. However, too much sunlight comes with its own health risks.
The Best Time to Get Sunlight
During summer, there is plenty of daily sunlight to boost the vitamin D levels in your body. The challenge comes with balancing skin protection from sun overexposure while reaping vitamin D's health benefits.
Midday, especially during summer, is the best time to get sunlight. At noon, the sun is at its highest point, and its UVB rays are most intense. That means you need less time in the sun to make enough vitamin D. There are many studies also show that the body is most efficient at making vitamin D at noon.
Here are some safe sun strategies if you decide to get limited, unprotected sun exposure for the sake of vitamin D:
- Always protect your face and top of your ears at the beach, because those are the most sun-exposed and sun-damaged skin areas.
- Allow 10 to 15 minutes or so of unprotected sun exposure to your arms, legs, abdomen and back. After that, follow up with good sun protection, like a 30-SPF or higher sunblock.
- Choose the right time of day. It’s been said that if your shadow is longer than your body height, you can't make any vitamin D. Between 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. is the usual window for significant sun exposure.
Skin pigmentation affects how much radiation your skin absorbs. It has been pointed out, that the darker the skin, the more it's protected against skin cancer but the less able it is to absorb UV-B rays, it also depends on how much skin is exposed and the time of day. If you're a fair-skinned person, spending a few minutes outside in the middle of the day without sunscreen would be enough to get vitamin D. However, if you are already tanned or of Hispanic origin, you need maybe 15 to 20 minutes. Brown skin may require six times the sun exposure to make the same vitamin D levels as a very fair-skinned person.