Thursday, March 19, 2009
Like Plants, We need Sunshine to Live!
If you are what you eat, then I'm definitely a plant. Maybe because everything I eat is plant based, but I need sunlight in order to feel good! Thankfully Boston gets a decent amount of sunshine even in the winter and I try to brave the cold even for just a little bit to let the sun kiss my face. Without Sunshine I definitely think I would have SAD. But now that spring is coming, that means even more sunshine!! Yesterday was absolutely gorgeous, and while it appears that rain is pending today, hopefully the sun will return tomorrow.
Besides generally boosting mood, Sunlight is also important for the synthesis of Vitamin D in the body. Vit. D is used for the maintenance of Calcium and Phosphorus in the blood. Deficiency can lead to Rickets, and Osteomalacia. But only a few foods contain high levels of D, namely fatty fish and eggs. Milk is fortified with it, and the FDA recently approved the fortification of soy products as well. Luckily, humans can also synthesis vitamin D from cholesterol-when exposed to Sunlight! (The amazingness of the human body never ceases to amaze me). Season, Location, Sunscreen, and Time of Day will affect the synthesis in each individual. To get sufficient levels of D this way you must expose the forearms and face for5-30 minutes of sunlight several times a week. Sometimes this is difficult in the winter, and in Boston (and anywhere north of 42 degrees north latitude), the UV energy is not high enough Nov-Feb to get adequate levels. Supplementation is often recommended. It is important to be careful with supplements though, because it is a fat-soluble Vitamin, and large amounts can be stored in the body, overdosing is toxic. Excess sun exposure will not lead to toxicity, but supplementation can. Guidelines for intake can be found here. Skin cancer is also a concern, so excess sun exposure should be avoided. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that older adults, people with dark skin, and those exposed to insufficient sunlight consume extra vitamin D from vitamin D-fortified foods and/or supplements. Individuals in these high-risk groups should consume 25 μg (1000 IU) of vitamin D daily.
Of course, I am not yet a registered Dietitian, so you should continue to do more research and contact a RD if you believe that you are not getting enough vitamin D and before you begin supplementation!
Rain Rain Go Away (or don't come at all) and Give Me My Sunlight!