Vitamin D

The sunshine vitamin's benefits (and what that means for your sunblock addiction).
By Michelle Gelok, RD

From April to September, there’s one more advantage to lacing up those sneakers and hitting the pavement: Walking outdoors during the spring and summer is an easy way to boost your vitamin D intake.

Commonly known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is naturally produced when your skin’s exposed to UV rays. It’s well known for its link to bone health, but recent studies have shown it may also play a role in protecting against certain cancers, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and multiple sclerosis. And because it’s tied to sun exposure, northerners, including Canadians, often don’t get enough.

Does this mean it’s time to toss that bottle of sunscreen? Well, you don’t need to have a tan to get enough vitamin D. In fact, in the spring and summer, the Rx is surprisingly light: All you need to boost your levels is 10 to 15 minutes of unprotected sun exposure twice a week on your face, arms or legs. (People over 50, those who have dark skin or women who wear clothes that cover most of their body are exceptions; the Canadian Cancer Society recommends they pop 1,000 IU of vitamin D every day.)

From September to April, unfortunately, we have one more reason to dislike winter: The sun’s rays aren’t strong enough for you to produce enough of the vitamin, so your walks – while still oh-so good for you – don’t count towards your daily intake. The Canadian Cancer Society recommends adults take 1,000 IU of vitamin D every day during the winter; pick one that contains vitamin D3 to get it in its most potent form.


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