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The Benefits of Natural Sunshine

The sun offers many benefits for health, from helping you sleep better to improving your mood. The sun is an important source of Vitamin D3, a nutrient that helps regulate your circadian rhythm cycles. Sunlight and darkness trigger the release of hormones like serotonin and melatonin in your brain. Although we are told to limit our exposure to the sun, it is vitally important for our health.

Vitamin D - The Sunshine Vitamin

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is made from the skin when exposed to sunlight (UV rays). The sun is also important for lowering the risk of depression. When levels of sun exposure are low (during winter time) the triggers for hormone production are also lower and there is more likelihood of depression or anxiety. Vitamin D is a group of nutrients (Vitamin D2 and D3) sourced from plant and animal protein.

It is estimated that 50% of the U.S. population is deficient in vitamin D. Low vitamin D levels have been linked to serious health problems including:

● Cancer

● Depression

● Osteoporosis

● Muscle weakness

● Death

To get an adequate amount of this vital nutrient, you need to spend a minimum of 30 minutes in the sun around midday, when the sun’s rays are the strongest. After 30 minutes apply sunscreen. The recommended amount is 30 minutes of midday sun three times per week. Other sources of Vitamin D include fortified milk, soy or nut milk, orange juice, egg yolks, and fatty fish.

Circadian Rhythm

Light and dark are both necessary for healthy muscle, organ, and brain function. Our biological clock (circadian rhythm system) uses light from the sun to trigger hormone production. This system helps you fall asleep at a certain time and wake up at a certain time every day. When the first rays of sunlight creep in through our closed eyelids, our brains begin to release serotonin, a hormone that boosts our mood. Serotonin is converted to melatonin in darkness, allowing us to fall asleep more easily at night. When this balance of light and darkness is disrupted (as with late-night TV/computer/video game use) by exposure to artificial light and not enough sunlight early in the day, sleep disorders and changes in mood can occur.

UV light from the sun increases the body’s production of endorphins, a natural feel-good chemical. 20 years of vitamin D research concluded that vitamin D also acts as a protective agent in our brains by providing neuroprotection and nervous and immune systems protection. It supports mental health and promotes normal brain function.

Getting the Benefits While Reducing the Risk

The sun offers some amazing health benefits but too much can result in sunburn, skin damage, and skin cancer. How can you get the benefits of the sun (Vitamin D) without the sun damage? By eating healthy foods containing Vitamin D, spending 30 minutes in the sun 3 times per week, and wearing sunscreen when exposed to the sun longer than 30 minutes. Studies have shown that short bursts of sun exposure is better than being expose.

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