Making Sunlight Nutritious

iStock_000033638470SmallVitamin D is the latest got-to-get-it nutrient, and for good reason—having enough vitamin D is crucial for nearly all body functions, from immune systems to cognitive functions to hormone production. If you regularly enjoy grass-fed animal products (including dairy and eggs), wild salmon, tuna, and/or sardines, you’re getting good doses of vitamin D in your food. Unfortunately, most people don’t eat those foods regularly.

So what’s the good news? The best source of vitamin D is the sun. Assuming that your cholesterol levels are high enough, your body can easily transform sunlight into vitamin D. We’re lucky that such an essential nutrient is free, at least during the summer months. All we have to do is step outside! That said, we do have to take a little precautions, because while a little sunlight is a great thing, too much can result in sunburn, which makes that vitamin-D-rich sunlight less nutritious.

Risk factors for sunburn:

  • Being fair-skinned and having blue or green eyes
  • Taking photosensitizing medications or supplements (read labels to see if what you’re taking makes you extra-sensitive to sunlight)
  • Wearing contacts (since contacts make eyes more sensitive to sunlight, it’s even more important for contact wearers to wear sunglasses)
  • Being outside for more than 10 minutes during the most sun-intense time of day, which is between 10 am and 4 pm
  • Falling asleep outside (by the time you wake up, your shady spot might be sunny)

How to avoid a sunburn:

  • Remember that sunburn can happen even on a cloudy day
  • Reflective surfaces like water, concrete, and large windows can increase the likelihood of sunburn
  • Covering up is your best option
  • Don’t forget your hat!
  • Opt for natural sunscreens (I like Badger Mountain or Tate’s) with SPF 15 or higher

What to do if you do get sunburned:

  • Take a cool bath or shower and avoid using any soaps or products—the cool water is all you need
  • Apply unscented aloe vera gel
  • Apply a cool compress to the burn
  • Take an aspirin
  • Use unscented lotion to moisturize (keep it in the fridge for an extra-soothing chilling effect)
  • Drink lots of water—sunburns are dehydrating
  • Be extra-protective of your skin until your burn has healed

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