Sunshine: it’s “D-lightful”

We get our vitamin D from food sources as well as from sunlight, making it unique among the major vitamins.

by Rev. Lena Sheehan — 

Oh, how lucky are those who live in sunny climates, where every day they can be outdoors, breathing fresh air and feeling good. Not only does it feel good, but just minutes of sunlight exposure per day give our bodies the opportunity to make the daily requirement of that valuable vitamin D, thus eliminating most people’s need for supplements.

We get our vitamin D from food sources as well as from sunlight, making it unique among the major vitamins. In fact, it can be said that vitamin D is not a true vitamin, since adequate amounts can be obtained through non-food sources. For instance, many outdoor workers get their required vitamin D from the sun during certain times of the year.

Sun as a source of vitamin D

We’ve heard about the harmful UV rays blamed for sunburns and skin cancer. Yet those same UV rays are crucial to delivering our vitamin D. The sun’s rays trigger vitamin D synthesis in the skin. Ten to 15 minutes of direct exposure to sunlight is plenty. It is advisable to allow these short exposures to the sun, followed by applications of sunscreen to prevent skin cancer and sunburns.

In Arizona, the sun can be too intense for many, but even in the shade or under cloudy skies, the sun’s rays work to build vitamin D in your skin, albeit to a lesser degree. If you do not care for the sun and spend your daytime hours indoors, you should probably think about supplementing your diet with extra vitamin D.

Similarly, if you live in a very northern climate where there is little sunlight for much of the year, a supplement is important. If you wear head-to-toe garments, as members of some religions do, you should use supplements.

Vitamin D supplements

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that is stored in your body. Too much is not recommended as overdoses can cause nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, weight loss, constipation and lack of energy, and also can lead to an overflow of calcium in your bones, eventually settling as calcium deposits in the heart and lungs.

The daily recommended intake of vitamin D is 200 IU for people 50 and younger. Older people should take more to help prevent osteoporosis, and the amount continues to increase with age. As a person ages, the skin synthesizes vitamin D less efficiently and the kidneys are less capable of converting it to its active hormone form. Vitamin D deficiency has been blamed for as many as 30 to 40 percent of hip fractures in elderly people.

Food sources of vitamin D

The most common food source of vitamin D is milk. This is not a natural occurrence, as pasteurized milk must be fortified with vitamin D. This is done because milk is rich in calcium, and adequate vitamin D intake is important to help the body absorb the calcium. Not all dairy products, such as cheese, yogurt or ice cream, are fortified with vitamin D, but many breakfast cereals are, to some degree. Check the packaging.

If you have a milk allergy, lactose intolerance, or do not drink milk or eat fortified cereals, you should make sure your supplements include healthy doses of vitamin D. Breastfeeding babies are most in need of vitamin D since breast milk is not fortified.

Seafoods, such as salmon, tuna, herring, sardines, mackerel and oysters, are rich in vitamin D. Egg yolks and liver have small amounts, but the richest dietary source is cod liver oil. If you decide to supplement your vitamin D through vitamin pills or capsules, use a quality supplement with high bioavailability.


Rev. Lena Sheehan is the owner of AZ Holistics, located in Tempe, Ariz. She holds a diploma in naturopathy, is a nutrition specialist, a certified hypnotherapist, Reiki/Karuna Ki master, reflexologist, magnet and color light therapist, and a spiritual medium. 480-894-2222, 877-536-2462, or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 27, Number 1, February/March 2008.


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