Living a healthy lifestyle requires focus on many different areas of your life: maintaining dietary health, physical health, and mental health are all equally important and must remain in balance. One element that is statistically proven to benefit all areas of an individual’s health is exposure to sunshine, which boosts vitamin D production within the body and connects directly with mood management, both of which are linked to maintaining a healthy weight. When exposure to sunshine is not possible due to geographical location, lifestyle, or seasonal weather conditions, many Americans turn to using vitamin supplements and dietary adjustments that help them manage their weight, maintain their health, and boost their mood.
Health Benefits of a Safe Dose of Sunshine
Women’s Health magazine cites statistics presented within reports published by the Archives of Internal Medicine, in which over 75 percent of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency. Exposure to sunshine is an incredibly important source of boosting vitamin D levels as it is the stimulant for the body’s natural processes of vitamin D production. However, it is important to remember that sunshine exposure should be safe. Excessive use of tanning beds – in fact, use of tanning beds in general – has been proven to lead to cancers such as melanoma and other serious skin conditions through exposure to dangerous ultraviolet rays. These same dangerous effects can be instigated through overexposure to natural sunlight as well, especially when sunscreens and protective clothing are not used. When these important, FDA-approved sunscreens are used, the ability to naturally produce vitamin D within the body can be decreased by over 90 percent.
To maintain vitamin D levels, then, it is important to combine safe doses of sunshine with dietary choices that are rich in vitamins. Since vitamin D is necessary for the absorption of calcium, a critical nutrient for weight loss, it is important to eat foods like sardines, tuna, and salmon that are rich in these nutrients. Eating extra amounts of vegetables throughout the winter – even when canned or frozen – can help to maintain vitamin D levels as well.
Weight Gain and Depression: Risks Posed by a Vitamin D Deficiency
In a study published in 2011 by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, women have been highlighted as the group most at risk to develop Vitamin D deficiencies in the United States, even when season and age are taken into consideration. Though the risk of developing a vitamin D deficiency has decreased over the last decade, there are still segments of the population that face this risk due to dietary issues and lifestyles that prevent adequate exposure to healthy sunshine. One statistic is decidedly unstable: in all groups, vitamin D levels fluctuated greatly depending on the season, which may lead to great deficiencies that can produce Seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This particular form of depression is linked with seasonal fluctuations in temperature, light exposure, and weather, as vitamin D production is naturally lower when individuals cannot experience sufficient sunlight. Especially when cravings for carbohydrates increase during the cold winter months, seasonal affective disorder can cause an individual to gain lots of weight during the cold winter months, which can be difficult to shed by summer for bathing suit season.
Whether or not connected with seasonal affective disorder, lowered levels of vitamin D are correlated with weight gain as well. Vitamin D works with serotonin in the brain to keep hunger levels and cravings in check. Some of these effects can be ameliorated through dietary changes that counterbalance this deficiency in sunlight exposure. Today, special weight loss supplements for women have been designed to combat this greater prevalence of deficiency of vitamin D in women, which is believed to have a direct link with weight gain and other health issues.
Monitoring Vitamin D Levels for Your Health
Women who believe they might be at risk for vitamin D deficiency should schedule a consultation with their primary care physician, who can order laboratory tests that can identify vitamin and mineral deficiencies through a blood sample, as well as offer referrals to a nutritionist for dietary examination. Regardless of the status of one’s vitamin D levels, however, it is important to include safe exposure to outdoor sunshine as well as foods rich in vitamin D within one’s health management routine throughout the year.