In the 1970s, John Denver had a massive hit song that listed some of the benefits of sunshine:
- It makes him happy
- It can make him cry
- It looks lovely on water
But in “Sunshine on My Shoulders,” Denver missed perhaps the most important benefit of all: exposure to sunlight helps your body develop vitamin D. And vitamin D—often called the “sunshine vitamin”—has many health benefits.
One of the critical functions vitamin D plays is allowing us to absorb calcium, which is the key to building strong bones. But there’s a long list of ways vitamin D can do your body good, including helping:
- Prevent certain types of cancer
- Lose weight
- Lower blood pressure
- Decrease the risk of contracting diabetes
- Stave off depression
- Treat psoriasis
- Improve oral health
Because spending time in the sun is such a great way of increasing your vitamin D level, certain environmental factors can interfere with your sun exposure. Aside from spending too much time indoors, living in a city, in a polluted area, or in a colder climate can depress your vitamin D levels. Darker skin can also inhibit the body’s ability to convert sunlight into vitamin D.
Aside from sun exposure, the two other primary ways to increase your vitamin D are through your diet or through supplements. Certain types of fatty fish, like salmon, tuna, and sardines are good sources, as is shrimp. Egg yolks and some mushrooms can be beneficial. Although not many foods are naturally high in vitamin D, many that contain calcium are fortified with vitamin D to increase absorption, for example milk, yogurt, and orange juice.
Supplements may help in certain circumstances, but check with your doctor before adding them to your daily regimen.
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