We all know that vitamins are essential for good health. They support various bodily functions like growth, metabolism, digestion, reproduction, and so on. Vitamins are naturally present in the food that we eat, so our diets must be an adequate source of the vitamins that our body needs. There are 13 essential vitamins that can help keep us fit and healthy, including the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D.
Unlike other vitamins, vitamin D is actually a steroid hormone that is produced from the cholesterol in your skin. This is possible because vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, which means it dissolves in fats and oils and stays in your body for a long time. As you get exposed to ultraviolet B (UVB) rays of the sun, your skin is then able to produce vitamin D.
Several factors can determine how much vitamin D your skin makes.
- What season it is: Obviously, summer months will help you produce more vitamin D than winter months.
- What time of day it is: The best time to get a healthy dose of sunshine is between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
- Where you live: If you live in areas that receive adequate sunlight, you should be able to get adequate amounts of vitamin D, too.
- How much melanin your skin has: Melanin is the brown-black pigment found in the skin, as well as the hair and eyes. Melanin can make your skin tan, which is why people with darker skin need to stay longer in the sun to make vitamin D.
One of the common questions that pop up in medical forums is how to prevent vitamin D deficiency since you’re not out in the sun all the time. But, as mentioned, your body can store vitamin D for weeks up to months, so you don’t really need to sunbathe every day.
Also, you can still get some vitamin D even if you’re sitting in the shade, as long as you have certain parts of your body, such as your hands, face, forearms, and lower legs, exposed. You can use sunscreen to protect yourself from getting sunburned, but it’s best to apply it 10 to 30 minutes after sun exposure to make sure that it doesn’t get in the way of your skin producing vitamin D.
If your access to sunlight isn’t enough, the next best source of vitamin D is the food you eat. Fish liver oil packs a lot of vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), which is more potent than vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) in terms of increasing the amount of vitamin D in your blood.
To know if you are deficient in vitamin D, you need to have your blood levels measured. If your stored vitamin D is below 12 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml), then it is considered deficient. A healthy level of vitamin D is anywhere between 20 and 30 ng/ml. You can take vitamin D3 supplements, as well, to enable you to reach optimal levels.
To know everything else about vitamin D, its benefits, and other more useful information on how to prevent vitamin D deficiency, refer to this infographic.