We should all let the sunshine in as much as possible -- and not just because it makes us feel good. Exposure to sunlight produces vitamin D in our skin. This is why we call vitamin D the “sunshine vitamin.”
Vitamin D is good for everybody. In fact, research shows this “sunshine vitamin” could help women with breast cancer live longer.
Breast cancer patients who have high blood levels of Vitamin D have a better a prognosis than women who don't. A prognosis is how quickly a doctor expects a patient to recover or how long a doctor expects a patient to live.
Researchers found that these women had less aggressive cancers. They were also 30 percent less likely to die from the cancer or to get it again.
Researcher Song Yao led the study for the Roswell Park Cancer Institute. He said the study showed that high Vitamin D levels improved the patients’ prognosis no matter what type or how advanced their cancer was.
Besides fighting breast cancer, Vitamin D helps the body in other ways. Most importantly, Vitamin D controls how the body absorbs calcium. It also makes sure the body’s immune system works normally.
Getting enough Vitamin D is important for normal growth of bones. If you don’t get enough, you are at risk of developing osteoporosis, a disease that makes your bones fragile, brittle, or easy to break.
Several studies show that Vitamin D also strengthens the immune system and helps the body fight disease.
Vitamin D may help reduce your risk of developing heart disease, according to a 2008 study published in the journal Circulation. And, it may also help protect you against getting the flu.
Other studies have shown that vitamin D might help people suffering from depression.
But how do we get enough vitamin D? Factors in the environment may limit our exposure to sunlight and, therefore, Vitamin D. These factors include pollution, using too much sunscreen, spending too much time inside and living in areas with little sunlight.
So, if you can’t get enough sunshine, eat foods that are rich in Vitamin D: egg yolks, cheese and fatty fish such as salmon, sardines, tuna or mackerel.
Some foods such as orange juice, yogurt and cereals are fortified with Vitamin D. They are also good sources.
How much Vitamin D you need is a debated topic. The best way to know if you need more Vitamin D is to get tested by a doctor.