Summer is approaching; winter is dwindling away. We all crave that vitamin D-giving summer glow but staying hydrated and avoiding sunburn are both crucial to stay healthy during the summer months.
To learn how to benefit from the sun’s rays—but not risk sun damage—read on for essential summer health and wellbeing tips.
How to get vitamin D from sunlight
To strengthen our bones, teeth and muscles, we need vitamin D—because it facilitates our bodies’ absorption of calcium and phosphate from our diet. Vitamin D deficiency can cause bones to become soft and weak and, in some cases, cause bone deformity.
But what is the best way to soak up that nourishing vitamin D from the sun?
Our bodies create vitamin D from direct sunlight when we are outdoors. We get most of our sunlight exposure in the UK from around late March/early April through to the end of September.
There is no precise time needed to be in the sun to take in the vitamin D our bodies require. This is because a number of variables affect the rate we take the vitamin in through our skin. These factors include skin colour and how much of our skin is exposed.
Those of African, African-Caribbean or south Asian origin need to spend longer in the sun to produce the same amount of vitamin D as those with lighter skin tones.
Our bodies can’t take in vitamin D through a window because ultraviolet B (UVB) rays—the ones we need to make vitamin D—can’t penetrate the glass.
We also get vitamin D from food sources such as oily fish, salmon, mackerel, herring and sardines, as well as red meat and eggs. Vitamin D is also added to certain foods, as a supplement, for example in breakfast cereals.
Sunburn is nasty. And it can just as easily affect us in Britain as it can abroad. In fact, you may be more likely to get burnt at home—because you don’t think you need to apply sunblock.
Although it is always a good idea to put sun cream on before long periods in the sunshine, our bodies require a certain amount of time without sunblock to reap the benefits of vitamin D.
Most people can take in enough vitamin D by exposing themselves to sunlight for short periods of time with their forearms, hands or lower legs uncovered and without sunscreen from late March or early April to the end of September, especially from 11 am to 3 pm.
To protect your skin in summer, it is advisable to use a separate sunscreen for your face and body. The best sunscreen for your face will be at least SPF 30 and non-greasy, so as not to create an oily complexion. Think about your skin type: sensitive, oily, dry etc. as there are products suitable for the individual skin indication.
It is also a good idea to remove your make up in the sun, not only to give your skin a break but also to make it easier to reapply sunscreen. If you want to continue with makeup, look for sunscreens with colour correcting tints.
Eat well to protect your skin from the sun
Studies have found that carotenoids, the antioxidants in orange fruit and veg, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, can reduce our skin’s sensitivity to the sun.
Other sources of antioxidants, such as fresh berries—blackberries, blueberries or strawberries—may prevent tissue damage and reduce the risk of age-related illness. Blueberries and blackberries are especially antioxidant-rich.
Berries also provide an abundance of fibre, which keeps cholesterol low and may even prevent some cancers.
Found in red fruit and veg, lycopene acts as your body’s internal SPF. And vitamin C, which is vital for collagen production, is found in peppers, kiwis and strawberries.
Nuts are packed with healthy fats. Nuts like walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds, as well as seeds like chia and flaxseed are great sources of vitamin E, an active sun blocker, which protects skin cells from UV damage, while also keeping it soft and supple.
Hydration is key
Hydration is key all year round and summer is no exception. In addition to helping the body function properly, water helps regulate body temperature and flush out waste.
The following tips can help you stay hydrated:
- Drink between 2-3 litres of water every day – you should check with your doctor the right amount to suit you
- Drink from a reusable bottle at work and refill it regularly
- Drink water during mealtimes – not only does water help keep you hydrated, it can also help you to feel full, stopping you from over-indulging
- Try flavouring your water with cucumber or lime slices – this will make an otherwise boring drink taste better and be more refreshing
- 20-30 minutes before exercise drink at least 250ml of water
- During exercise, drink at least 500ml of water
- After exercise, drink at least 250ml of water.