Summer is finally here. After all the wind, rain, gales and even hail stones the sun is finally starting to push through. And with its rays comes much needed vitamin D. In the UK we can only really get vitamin D from the sun during the spring/summer months – April to October, and only when the sun is high in the sky around 12-3pm.
When you’re on a tight family budget there’s no money for expensive supplements, so you need to maximise the sunlight and also get it right nutritionally.
In the UK we apparently don’t get enough vitamin D because we don’t get enough sun! What I really think the problem is that in the UK we don’t get enough TIME in the Sun. We’re a nation of desk addicts that rarely take a lunch break as opposed to other Europeans who regularly take time off during daylight hours for leisurely lunches and siestas.
Our children have a more indoors lifestyle thanks to too much homework, TV, computers and video games as well as a fear of letting them play freely on the streets as I used to do as a child.
To top it off, skin cancer awareness has been heightened in recent years and sun screen is liberally applied at any sign of a small ray of sun for fear of burning. I witnessed this over last Summer at Melissa’s nursery where factor 50 was slapped on at every opportunity for an outside play.
This is despite data showing that skin cancer is in fact still on the rise, and that some sunscreens do not protect against the more dangerous UVA component of the spectrum that may cause malignant melanoma. Furthermore, some sunscreen ingredients have carcinogenic (cancer forming) properties, and also block production of Vitamin D resulting in deficiency which has been shown to increase your risk of other cancers.
Yet just 10-15 minutes a day of decent sunlight is all you need to get enough vitamin D! And unlike other nutrients it’s free this way; no need for expensive supplements or modified diets.
What is Vitamin D?
Unlike other nutrients, vitamin D isn’t really a vitamin at all; it’s a hormone, made by your body as you are exposed to sunlight. Its relationship to bone metabolism is more complicated than you might guess as it acts to increase calcium in the blood stream by increasing your ability to absorb calcium from foods and by reducing the amount of calcium you lose in urine.
So sadly, if you don’t have enough Vitamin D in your body, then all the milk and cheese in the world won’t give you strong bones.
How to maximise your vitamin D!
1) Get some SUN!
Expose yourself to 10-15 minutes of sun every day in the UK from April to October before applying sunscreen, covering up or simply getting out of the sun so you avoid burning. If you have dark skin you may need longer.
Eat Vitamin D rich foods.
10% of your vitamin D intake comes from the food you eat. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin so you need to eat fat to get it. Fat is good for you as long as it’s the natural kind (none of these man-made margarines – that’s a whole another blog post). Fortunately oily fish such as mackerel, sardines, pilchards, herring and anchovies is pretty cheap as are farm eggs if you can find a good local source. Try this beetroot and mackerel salad for starters. Here’s where I like to buy fish and eggs in Oxford. So load up on these goodies and enjoy the sun!