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Although we just set our clocks back and gained an extra hour of sleep (it doesn’t feel like it), we lost hours of sunshine in our day.
Why is sun so important?
Spending time in the sunlight has a positive impact on your health in several ways like:
Better quality of sleep – Early morning sunlight seems to help set your body’s internal clock and help you sleep better at night
Improved emotional wellness – More serotonin is made by the brain with increased sunlight. This can help lower your chances of depression and boost your mood
Protection against diseases caused by Vitamin D deficiency - Your body can make its own Vitamin D when exposed to the sunlight!
And get this, catching some rays can even help with your weight loss goals!
Before we get into Vitamin D and your weight, let’s look at how your body makes Vitamin D.
How Does Your Body Make Vitamin D?
When you spend time out in the sun, the sun’s ultraviolet rays hit your skin and begins the process of your body making Vitamin D.
The UV rays then convert the cholesterol in your skin to Vitamin D3.
Next, your liver and kidneys step into action to produce a form of Vitamin D that your body can use called calcitriol (fancy name for Vitamin D).
Not Enough Vitamin D
Spending time basking in the sun sounds pretty simple right?
Well, about 40% of people in the US are Vitamin D deficient! Researchers believe that this is due to having an indoor lifestyle:
Working in offices
Working remotely from home
Spending leisure time indoors
Who is the most Vitamin D deficient?
Studies show that 76% of African-Americans and 40% of Hispanics are Vitamin D deficient!
This is in part due to the presence of more melanin in the skin of people with darker skin tones.
Melanin decreases the skin’s ability to produce Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. The use of sunscreen can also reduce your body’s ability to make its own Vitamin D.
Well, how much time should you spend in the sunlight?
It is recommended to spend 15-20 minutes each day, BUT if you have darker skin, you should spend 30 minutes in the sun every day!
Eat Your Vitamin D
If you can’t get out in the sun, you can add Vitamin D to your diet!
Vitamin D2 is found in plants and fortified foods like:
Fortified cereals and breads
Vitamin D3 is found in animal sources like:
Salmon and other oily fish
Although getting Vitamin D on your plate is a step in the right direction, it’s hardly enough for your daily needs.
Therefore, it’s still recommended that you spend time out in the sun (unless you have a medical condition that prevents it).
If you simply can’t stand to be out in the sun, Vitamin D supplements can help you achieve the recommended dosage of Vitamin D.
How much Vitamin D do you need?
It can be confusing when trying to figure out the right amount of Vitamin D for your body because recommendations vary greatly.
The best place to start is to have your doctor review your labs to determine the best dosage for you.
Low Vitamin D and Weight Gain
Vitamin D deficiency is linked to obesity and weight gain due to the symptoms and conditions that can result from having low Vitamin D.
Who’s going to exercise when they can barely keep their eyes open? No one!
Vitamin D deficiency can cause severe fatigue that leaves you feeling unmotivated to be active. This can lead to you packing on more pounds and putting you at risk for obesity.
Low Vitamin D can put you at risk for developing osteoporosis (brittle bones). With osteoporosis, your bones become very weak and painful, making simple day-to-day task extremely difficult.
For someone with osteoporosis, it can feel impossible to lead an active lifestyle when your bones simply aren’t strong enough to support those activities. In turn, this can cause unwanted weight gain that can worsen your osteoporosis.
Studies have shown that low Vitamin D levels can cause depression. Chronic depression can slow your metabolism (the way your body burns calories for energy) .
This can cause unwanted weight gain or make it difficult for you to lose weight - even if you are eating well and exercising. Depression can also lead to making poor food choices which can cause weight gain as well.
Let the Sunshine In!
With all of life’s ups and downs, it can feel like there’s no time, to make time, for YOU! I challenge you to get out of your chair and talk a walk outside. If you can’t walk, go out and sit in the sun.
Check in with your doctor to see if your Vitamin D levels are where they should be. Let’s go into the Holiday Season being the healthiest version of yourself!