Australia has the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world, so it’s no wonder we’re so cautious of the sun. Like everything in life though, extremes can also be dangerous and by avoiding the sun you may be causing more harm than you realise.

The most important quality of the sun is it ability to provide the body with vitamin D. Vitamin D is necessary for the functioning of eyes, brain, skin, glands and general health. Many disorders are linked to a low intake of Vitamin D, here are just a few of them: –

  • Lack of energy
  • Excess weight (deficiency in vitamin D causes an increase in an enzyme that converts calories to fat.)
  • Hormonal problems
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Depression
  • Sugar cravings
  • Blood sugar problems
  • Breast, prostate, colon and skin cancer
  • Osteoporosis
  • Auto immune disorders – multiple sclerosis, crohn’s
  • Diabetes, arthritis, infertility, PMS and even skin cancer has been linked to a lack of sunlight!

There are three types of light emanating from the sun—UVA, UVB and UVC. UVB is the band of light we’re most interested in. This is the one that contains all the nutritious goodies for well-being. Glass or clouds easily block UVB and the time when it is strongest is at midday. So although the advise to stay out of the sun from 10—2 will assist in not getting burnt, it denies our body of the sun’s most nutrient rich rays.

So how do you overcome this dilemma? Ensure you wear a large brimmed hat, no sunglasses and either a natural non-toxic sunburn cream (a brand like Jurlique) or no sunburn cream. PABA, the active component contained in most sunscreens, inhibits vitamin D absorption. Most importantly, only stay in the sun for less than the amount of time it takes for you to show any signs of going pink or burning. Be especially careful of the delicate skin of babies. Regular small doses of the sun are far more nutritious than a large irregular dose.

A good sun example would be to have a regular picnic lunch in your back yard or local park. Chose a position that is partially protected by a large tree so the sunlight will trickle through at a gentle rate. Or perhaps a short walk after morning tea – even around the garden to pick a few flowers, sprinkle some water or, perhaps more realistically, around the washing line.

Now being in the sun gets the vitamin D into the oils on surface of the skin, to actually absorb it takes the body 30—60 minutes. Inadvertently removing the oil prior to this time by activities like having a shower, or swimming at the beach or pool will negate the benefits of the sun.

Another factor that affects the body’s ability to absorb vitamin D is the type of oil/fat in the diet. Trans-fatty acids (margarine and hydrogenated oils) interfere with the enzymes that enable vitamin D to be utilised. Saturated fats (butter, ghee, coconut) and omega 3 oils (flax seeds, pumpkin seeds) do not hamper vitamin D absorption.

For those who do not have the opportunity or inclination to indulge in sunshine, or those who live in areas where strong rays of sunshine would be a rare treat (like Alaska), nature has provided many alternatives food sources of vitamin D.

100 grams IUD of Vitamin D
Cod Liver Oil 10,000
Oysters 642
Sardines 480
Mackerel 450
Sturgeon Roe 232
Egg Yolk (Fresh) 148
(one egg yolk contains about 24)
Butter 56
Lamb Liver 20

As is often the case with supplements, vitamin D in a pill or in a food that has been fortified, is synthetic and does not have the same extensive healing effects as naturally occurs in food and the sun.

Now the other side! Excess vitamin D is not advisable, particularly if the diet is lacking in calcium, magnesium and minerals. In this case, the excess vitamin D may cause calcium to be leached from the bones and toxic minerals may be absorbed. So if you consume large quantities of cod liver oil in preference to time in the sun, decrease the quantity during that next holiday at the beach.

So if you’ve always wondered why kids love to play outside in the sunshine and seem healthier and happier for it, now you know – join them!