Vitamin D and the power of sunshine

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Friday, May 11th, 2012
Most people love to feel the sunshine on their skin. It promotes happy, fun memories. Life feels and looks better when the sun is shining. Unfortunately in Ireland, we don’t see too much sunshine and this can affect our health. We know a tan is not healthy, especially now with skin cancer levels on the rise, however with care taken, regular sun and daylight exposure is important to both our mental and our physical health. Without it, some of us suffer with SAD (Seasonal Affected Disorder) and others with a Vitamin D deficiency, a deficiency which can contribute to increased chances of cancer and other chronic illness. A Vitamin D deficiency is a very common condition, especially with restricted diets, yet also largely due to reduced sun exposure as our lives become more and more focused indoors; from cars to gyms, to underground carparks, many of us rarely spend time outside anymore! This daily situation may sound familiar to you: Wake up, jump in the car. Travel to work. Park as close to work as possible. Lunch is taken at your desk, 5pm comes and it’s a brief 10 seconds walk outdoors back to the car and home with the TV on for the evening. If it does sound like a typical day for you, you may have a Vitamin D deficiency as the majority of this Vitamin comes from sun and daylight exposure on our skin and in smaller doses in fortified margarines, eggs, meat, fortified breakfast cereals and fatty fish such as mackerel and salmon. A Vitamin D deficiency is common in those who eat a restricted diet, who maybe don’t like fish, have given up dairy or who need more than the RDA, for example pregnant ladies and those over the age of 65. Vitamin D is necessary for strong bones and muscle health, with studies showing that adequate amounts reduce the incidence of cancer to the bones, decrease your chances of breast cancer, heart disease and infections. Increased levels of Vitamin D can also help autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and help build strong bones in combination with adequate amounts of calcium for those at risk of osteoporosis. With knowledge comes power and the ability to make positive changes to your lifestyle and health, here’s my top tips to ensure you maintain adequate levels of Vitamin D throughout your life: 1.       Spend 15-20 minutes outdoors daily with your hands and face exposed to the daylight, if by some freak incidence Newry sees a heatwave, put on a t-shirt and expose your arms as well if the sun is shining! Any longer than this or on a particularly sunny day please remember to wear sunscreen. 2.       A daily walk will also help improve the mood of those who do suffer with SAD as increased levels of serotonin are produced when exposed to daylight and can positively improve mood. 3.       Choose a fortified dairy spread. 4.       Regularly eat eggs and good quality organic meat 2-3 times a week. 5.       When choosing fish, white is great for its versatility and can generally be eaten by those typical non-fish eaters as the taste can be disguised with the use of herbs and spices, however it’s the likes of mackerel and salmon that are going to boost your Vitamin D intake. 6.       If you suffer with SAD, consider investing in a light box which mimics the sunshine and can improve your mood. 7.       Foods such as whole grains, milk, bananas, poultry, salmon, spinach, berries and citrus fruits, eggs yolks, dark chocolate also boost our mood and should be eaten by those who are affected with this mood disorder. 8.       Likewise, caffeine, sugar and alcohol should be avoided as these can be classified as ‘bad mood foods’. Our bodies need vitamins, essential fatty acids and minerals, most of which we can get from food and a healthy lifestyle. This article highlights the importance of a holistic approach to your health, eternally wanting to lose weight is not, in my opinion, caring about your health. Make positive changes, take a daily walk for reasons other than weight loss, eat fish and enjoy it, boost your mood through food if you suffer with SAD and feel better that you’re making changes from the inside out, soon enough you’ll start to notice the changes on the outside too! LISA’S TIP:  This week I’m asking you to write in with your questions and I’ll do my best to answer them next week!
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