James and I have been married for 22 years and we are on our first true vacation alone in all those years! We came down to Florida to stay at my mother’s house near Jupiter. A lot of logistics are necessary to accomplish this, and I am grateful to my sister Susan, and my mother who together have six of my children back home in Charlotte! James and I are relaxing, enjoying some romantic dinners alone, and soaking in some Vitamin D.
Speaking of Vitamin D, it appears to be making a comeback and is receiving some publicity lately, especially in it’s most natural form (sunlight). I am part of the generation that grew up hearing about the negative effects of too much sunlight. This is why most of us who are parents feel guilty if we don’t totally lather our children up when they go out in the sun. As a woman, I know how the sun causes my face to wrinkle and show creases prematurely (being a runner that started about ten years ago for me!). While most of these things are true, research is showing the importance of Vitamin D, especially as we age. Sunlight is a natural source of Vitamin D, and is the easiest way to get it, infact. Relatively few foods naturally contain Vitamin D, the most abundant being oily fish like salmon, sardines, and mackerel, or old-fashioned, cod liver oil. Because of limited natural sources, numerous foods, such as milk, are vitamin-D fortified.
Many scientists now believe we need 1,000 IU per day of vitamin D (IU = international units, a measure of vitamin potency) to avoid deficiency. What does this mean? For reference, a salmon serving contains about 360 IU, a glass of fortified milk about 100 IU, an egg 25 IU, and a tablespoon of cod liver oil 1300+ IU. In comparison, full-body sunbathing for a period of time that will just make you turn pink will produce 10,000-20,000 IU of vitamin D, equivalent to 100 to 200 glasses of fortified milk! In other words, a little bit of sunlight goes a long way! Vitamin D is produced by our skin in response to exposure to ultraviolet radiation from natural sunlight. However, our sunscreens can block many of these important UVB rays (the sun’s rays are blocked by most glass, too, so sitting in a car won’t get them). Research suggests that we probably need from 5 to 30 minutes of exposure to the sun on our face, arms, back or legs (without sunscreen) twice every week.
Dr. Michael Holick, from the Boston University Medical Center, has written a book called, “The UV Advantage”, which explains many of the benefits of direct exposure to the sun’s rays and reveals the problems of vitamin D deficiency. Some of the results of not enough Vitamin D are osteoporosis, depression, Ricketts, Seasonal Affective Disorder, and certain cancers. While sunscreen can inhibit some of the important UVB rays from reaching the skin, research has shown that because most people don’t apply it over and over, they are still probably getting the exposure they need to the sun. However, there are definitely studies that show that many people don’t get enough natural sunlight and could be suffering from some form of Vitamin D deficiency.
This weekend, that is not me, however. I am hoping to soak up enough Vitamin D to last me a long while! Are you getting some much needed sunlight this weekend? I hope so!