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Vitamin D: Enjoy responsibly

Vitamin D can strengthen your bones, boost your immune system, regulate insulin levels, and improve cardiovascular health. It also just makes you feel good.

Soaking up some vitamin D usually sounds like a good idea, especially because about half of the people in the world struggle with a vitamin D deficiency. However, it's not as easy as the sun sending down vitamin-charged rays directly into your skin, nor is it safe to rely on the sun for all your vitamin D needs.

When you go outside, the sunlight triggers your body to produce vitamin D internally when the ultraviolet rays hit your skin. This is one of the primary ways people receive vitamin D's benefits because it doesn't occur naturally in many foods.

Vitamin D can strengthen your bones, boost your immune system, regulate insulin levels, and improve cardiovascular health. It also just makes you feel good. Conversely, when you don't have enough vitamin D in your body, your mood can suffer. You also might get sick more often, feel tired, or struggle with bone and muscle pain. There is a long list of people at risk for vitamin D deficiency, so you'll need to be even more vigilant if you fall into one of these categories.

Medical experts recommend that teenagers and most adults get 15 mcg (600 IU) of Vitamin D per day. The recommended dose for adults above the age of 70 is 20 mcg (800 IU). What's an IU, you ask? It's an international unit, but what really matters is that 30 minutes in midday sunlight in some regions is enough to give you way more vitamin D than you need.

According to the American Cancer Society, the sun's rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so the middle of the day is a good time to "get out and get in." Too much time in the sun can lead to health complications, including sunburns, heatstroke, and skin cancer.

Several factors can affect natural vitamin D synthesis.

  • Darker skin and age lower your body's efficiency at producing vitamin D from the sun.
  • Excessive body fat can bind to vitamin D and prevent it from reaching your bloodstream.
  • Sunscreen with an SPF higher than 30 can also block vitamin D production. However, the American Cancer Society recommends using sunscreen with at least 30 SPF. If you are unable to balance sunlight with proper sun safety, you may consider other methods of consuming vitamin D.

Fatty fish, cheese, mushrooms, and egg yolks naturally contain vitamin D, while milk, orange juice, and cereal sometimes have the vitamin added to them. You can also buy vitamin D supplements, but don't overuse them.

It's a constant tug-of-war between the necessity of vitamin D and the safety recommendations for preventing cancer. The moral of the story is that it doesn't take much sunlight to cause your body to produce the vitamin D you need. And you CAN get vitamin D without being a beach bum. Ask your doctor about the vitamins you should be taking and supplements to help meet those requirements.

This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. If you have any concerns, please speak with your doctor.

Sinclair Broadcast Group is committed to the health and well-being of our viewers, which is why we initiated Sinclair Cares. Every month we'll bring you information about the "Cause of the Month," including topical information, education, awareness, and prevention. July is UV Awareness Month.