Fast forward 40 or so years. We now know from the science and medical professionals that a sunburn does not necessarily turn into the tan of one's dreams. They often turn into spots, leathery skin, or even worse, they may turn into some types of skin cancers. The tans of our youth may turn into age spots some years later. My dermatologist told me at a recent appointment, when I swore up and down that I slather on SPF 50 or higher every time I leave the house, that I was "paying for the sins of my youth." How eloquent. My shoulders, which had not seen sun in years without a heavy dose of SPF had little dark brown freckles. I could hike all day long in the sun, reapplying vigorously and not get any tan at all. I was as proud of this fact as I was of my lard burns of my preteen years.
Enter the Paleo living lifestyle of the 21st century. The more ancient ways of whole food eating, moving like our ancestors did, and enjoying sunshine for its role in vitamin D have been rediscovered. Recently, folks have learned the value of the sun in its role of providing us with vitamin D. Vitamin D has properties which help us absorb calcium. It is a fat soluble vitamin, which means it is better absorbed when eaten with fat. When we eat foods that have vitamin D in them, usually they are fortified foods, meaning that they do not naturally have vitamin D in them. Instead, food companies add it in. Exposure to sunlight allows our bodies to make vitamin D and convert it into its active form. We cover up with a lot of clothing most of the time. We work indoors, then go into our cars and into our homes, malls, restaurants, etc. Unless we conscioulsy make a decision to wear shorts and a tee shirt and expose most of our body to the sun, we may have less vitamin D than we need for optimim health.
Vitamin D helps regulate blood pressure, build immunity, keeps our muscular strength and bone density up, and also reduces inflammation. Inflammation in the body plays a role in many chronic diseases and conditions, especially as we age. Vitamin D converts to the active form less and less as we age. People with darker skin need more and more sunlight exposure to produce vitamin D than those with lighter skin. Some mushrooms have vitamin D in them, but no other plant-based foods produce any vitamin D. Check your levels by consulting a health practitioner.
When going out in the sun to get your vitamin D and fresh air, I suggest at least 20 minutes of exposure a day, and uncover the arms, legs, and face. Well, what about sunscreen? Yes, use your SPF, and enjoy your time outdoors even longer with protection from the concerns shared above.
Let me know what you do after reading this blog! I want to hear from you!