How Much Sun Do You Actually Need?


For thousands of years man has lived with the sun. Our ancestors were outdoors far more often than indoors. Yet health authorities would have you believe that the sun is out to kill us. Our UV paranoia runs so deep that, without our sunscreen, we sometimes avoid the outdoors altogether.

It’s not all our fault.  Daily we’re faced with news headlines like my last post, “Scientists Make Drug That Creates “Real Sun Tan” To Prevent Cancer.”  They’re doing a great job at scaring people back indoors.

Well sun lovers take solace.  The sun is not your enemy.  In fact, if you follow their advice, you’re more likely to be sick than not.

Several studies have confirmed that appropriate sun exposure actually helps prevent skin cancer.  In fact, melanoma occurrence has been found to decrease with greater sun exposure, and can be increased by sunscreens.  Melanoma is actually more common in indoor workers than in outdoor workers, and is more common on regions of your body that are not exposed to the sun at all.

Sunlight exposure is necessary for your body to be able to produce vitamin D — and optimized vitamin D levels are key to preventing numerous types of cancer, including melanoma.  Low levels of D, which is actually a steroid hormone, have been linked to a long list of health problems

Interestingly, according to this study published recently in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, high levels of vitamin D can decrease swelling and inflammation due to sunburn, because vitamin D activates skin repair genes including an anti-inflammatory enzyme called arginase-1.  In a nutshell, Vitamin D, which you’re body makes from sun exposure, will help you heal from too much sun exposure.  Now that’s irony!

How Much Sun Do You Need?

Contrary to popular belief, the every day minute exposures you get from walking from your house to the mailbox or from your office to the parking lot are just not enough.  On the flip side of the equation, sunburns are not good for the skin either.  So, what would be the proper amount of sun?

According to Dr. Joseph Mercola, in order to optimize your levels, you need to expose large portions of your skin to the sun just long enough to have your skin turn the lightest shade of pink.  (Past this, your body will not make additional vitamin D and the sun will only damage the skin.) 

Most people with fair skin will max out their vitamin D production in just 10-20 minutes, but everyone will be a little bit different according to their skin tone.  Darker skin will need a little more time to optimize their levels.  If you plan to be out in the sun for an extended period of time, it’s best to consider utilizing an umbrella, protective clothing, or a high quality natural sunscreen (applied periodically throughout the day).

When’s The Best Time For Exposure?

Believe it or not, the best time to be in the sun for vitamin D production is actually as near to solar noon as possible. Ultraviolet light from the sun comes in two main wavelengths — UVA and UVB.

UVA is considered the unhealthy wavelengths because they penetrate your skin more deeply and cause more free radical damage.  UVA rays are constant throughout all hours of the day and throughout the entire year.  UVB, considered the healthy wavelengths that help your skin produce vitamin D, are low in morning and evening, and high at midday. 

So to maximize your vitamin D production and minimize your risk of malignant melanoma, the middle of the day (roughly between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.) is the safest time to be out in the sun.  UVB rays are the most intense, requiring a shorter amount of exposure time to increase vitamin D levels.

Other Sources Of Vitamin D

While the exposure to sunlight is the very best way to get the vitamin D you need, there are foods which can help provide some as well. 

  1. Wild Caught Salmon (and other fatty fish like tuna, mackerel and sardines. Not Tilapia.  Only buy wild caught fish, never farmed.  If there is no specification, it’s likely farmed.)
  2. Raw Dairy like cheese, kefir and yogurt.
  3. Eggs.  (Pastured eggs are best! Chickens who spend their entire life under the roof of a building, never seeing the light of day, will not make eggs with high levels of vitamin D. Don’t be tricked by the label “cage free,” because that does not guarantee they’ve ever seen the sun.)
  4. Lard. Yep, you read that right. Cooking with animal fat is still the healthiest way. Lard from pastured animals is actually fairly high in vitamin D and 100% better for your heart health.
  5. Mushrooms.

Whether you live in an isolated area or a city that just hasn’t got any stores carrying healthier foods, finding clean versions of the foods we should be eating can be a task. Check around your area for local ranchers/farmers who are raising their animals properly or talk to a local butcher (if one still exists in your area).

If you’re having difficulty, my favorite source is U.S. Wellness Meats! They make it super easy, are comparable in pricing (sometimes even cheaper), and will ship straight to your door! Also, they offer specialty items that are really hard to find. I love them. =)

Another option would be a supplemental form. But vitamin D has such a synergistic relationship with other nutrients like calcium, vitamin K, magnesium, and vitamin A that it hangs in a delicate balance with them.  Supplementing with single nutrients (for example only D3) can easily throw that balance off.  So, if you choose to use supplements to increase your vitamin D, make sure to only use an organic, whole food supplement like this one from Pure Synergy.  This will help boost your levels, but keep everything in balance.

Luckily, balance always exists in natural, whole foodsThat’s always the best place to start!


Learn more about the benefits of vitamin D, check out “The Vitamin D Solution” by Dr. Michael F. Holick. 

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