Sunlight has numerous health benefits and daily exposure is recommended as a part of a healthy lifestyle. The timing of sun exposure, the foods we consume and the type of sunscreen we wear can all impact the benefits we receive. Here are 5 tips to help with maximising the health benefits of sunlight.
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sunlight – a free way to improve our health
Taking care of our health can feel so expensive and unaffordable. In my previous blog post, I spoke about how sunlight was one of 10 easy ways that we can improve our health for free. Sunlight can improve our health in many ways, including:–
- Increased energy,
- Reduced stress,
- Improved sleep quality and,
- Increased production of vitamin D in the skin, which strengthens the immune system (1; 2).
However, too much sun exposure can cause skin damage, increase free radical production in the body, which damages heathy tissue cells and increases the risk of illnesses like skin cancer (3).
maximising the health benefits of sunlight
Below are 5 tips to help maximise the health benefits, while also preventing the negative effect of the sun’s UV rays.
maximising the health benefits of sunlight tip 1). morning light exposure
Morning exposure to the natural outdoor light regulates our circadian rhythm, our body’s natural internal clock. This controls a range of processes in the body, one of which is our sleep-wake cycle. Exposing your eyes to natural light in the morning (don’t stare directly into the sun!), even for 10-15 minutes, suppresses the production of the sleep promoting hormone melatonin, allowing us to feel alert during the day (1). This combined with avoiding light in evening, including artificial light from laptops, phones and TV’s, for at least 2 hours before bed, triggers the production of melatonin to begin and peak earlier, allowing you to fall asleep easier.
Studies have shown light exposure in the morning and avoidance in the evening improves health by: –
- Increasing sleep duration,
- Reducing the amount of times people wake up during the night,
- Increasing the amount of time spent in the deeper restorative sleep stages, where the greatest amount of healing and regeneration occurs (4).
If you’re bedbound or unable to leave the house, looking into the natural light through a window, or, ideally, as glass can block the amount of light entering the eyes, opening the window and looking into the outdoors has the same positive benefits (5).
maximising the health benefits of sunlight tip 2). eat foods high in chlorophyll
Chlorophyll is the pigment which gives plants and food their green colour. Our bodies use this green pigment to convert the energy from sun’s UV rays into energy which we can use (6). The greener the vegetable, the higher the chlorophyll content. Consume all these foods raw when possible, like in salads, as heat destroys chlorophyll. Foods high in chlorophyll include (7):-
These have the highest concentration of chlorophyll. They can be added to juices, smoothies, soups or pasta sauces:-
- Moringa powder (UK Link/US Link)
- Wheatgrass (UK Link/US Link)
- Chlorella (UK Link/US Link)
- Spirulina (UK Link/US Link)
- Barley grass juice powder (UK Link/US Link)
Dark leafy greens
- Collard greens
- Romaine/cos lettuce
- Bok choy
- Swiss chard
- Collard greens
- Mustard greens
- Brussel sprouts
- Green cabbage
Sprouting is an ancient practice that goes back to biblical times. Sprouted seeds have 10-100 times the nutrient content of regular vegetables, while also maximising the absorption of these nutrients. Sprouted seeds can be added to smoothies or soups, used in salads or as a side dish for meals.
Sprouting seeds that are high in chlorophyll include:-
how to sprout seeds
It is easy to sprout seeds at home in a sprouting jar (UK Link/US Link) following these 5 steps:-
- Soak 2 tablespoons of seeds in jar filled with filtered water for at least 8 hours until the seeds have doubled in size.
- Drain and rinse seeds. Leave the jar inverted so the mesh lid is facing down and cover with a tea towel.
- Rinse and drain seeds twice a day until the sprouts are ready – it can take 3-5 days depending on the specific seeds being sprouted.
- On the day they’re ready – remove the tea towel and place the sprouts in a well lit area to allow the sprouts to become more green (this increases the chlorophyll content).
- Rinse and drain once more. Eat straight away or leave to dry completely and store in the fridge in a glass jar where they will keep for up to a few days.
maximising the health benefits of sunlight tip 3). consume foods high in melanin
Melanin is a pigment that gives our skin, hair and eyes their colour. It:-
- Protects the skin from sun damage by absorbing the sun’s UV rays (8).
- Maximises the health benefits of sunlight by converting these rays into energy that the body can use, reducing fatigue and increasing alertness and energy levels throughout the day (9).
Medicinal mushrooms are a great source of melanin, with chaga mushroom being the greatest. Chaga mushroom powder (UK Link/US Link) is the easiest way of consuming it.
how to use chaga mushroom powder (UK Link/US Link)
Chaga powder can be used to make a caffeine free coffee alternative or added to smoothies and smoothie bowls, like this Immune Boosting Chaga Berry Smoothie Bowl.
maximising the health benefits of sunlight tip 4). wear natural chemical-free sunscreen (UK Link/US Link)
Protecting ourselves to prevent sunburn and skin damage when exposed to sunlight for long periods is essential. However, the chemicals in regular sunscreens used to block the sun’s UV rays are unstable when exposed to these rays and actually cause greater free radical production than when skin is exposed to sunlight without any protection (10)!
Instead, opt for a natural chemical free broad spectrum alternative, which contains zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, like Badger’s (UK Link/US Link) to provide protection against both UVB and UVA rays. It is also unscented so great for those like me with sensitive skin.
maximising the health benefits of sunlight tip 5). Use the Dminder App
As previously mentioned, one of the benefits of sunlight is the production of vitamin D – it’s produced in the skin when the sun’s UV rays hit it. Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that’s needed to help the body to absorb calcium and for bone health and immune system health (11). As very few foods contain vitamin D, the sun is the best natural source of it (11).
factors affecting vitamin D production from sunlight
However, the amount of sun exposure each individual needs to produce the recommended amount of vitamin D can vary significantly depending on several factors (12, 13):-
- Time of year
- Time of day
- Clothing/how much skin is exposed to sunlight
- Skin colour & type
- Supplements being taken
The Dminder app takes all of these factors into account to tell you the length of sun exposure you need to meet your vitamin D intake recommendation.
tips to stay cool in the summer heat
Although there are numerous benefits of sunlight exposure, hot temperatures can be difficult for people, especially those with chronic illness, whose symptoms often worsen in the heat. Click to read my other blog post, with 10 Tips To Stay Cool & Survive The Summer Heat.
Click for summer recipes to help you stay cool in the hot temperatures:-
other blog posts on health and wellness
Click to read my other blog posts with tips and strategies that are helping me improve my health and wellbeing:-
- 10 Free Ways To Improve Your Health
- Anxiety & Stress Relief – 15 Things To Do In Bed
- Hydration – 9 Tips To Stay Hydrated
- Healthy Food Swaps For Any Dietary Requirement
- Vagus Nerve Exercises – 12 Ways To Improve Physical & Mental Health
- 6 Free Ways To Start A Toxin Free Lifestyle (& Why It’s Important For Health)
- 15 Easy Ways To Reduce Chemicals In Your Home (& Why It’s Important For Health)
- 10 Tips To Stay Cool & Survive The Summer Heat
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4 thoughts on “Maximising The Health Benefits Of Sunlight – 5 Tips”
I always knew that getting sunlight could improve your mood and energy, but I never thought to eat chlorophyll rich foods. I didn’t even know there were foods you could consume for melanin. This post was very informative.
Thank you very much for your comment Millicent. I had no idea either about the impact the food we eat could have until I listened to a podcast and read some research on it. Wishing you all the best.
Excellent post with such valuable information. All those lovely foods I used to eat a lot of, but not sure why I don’t anymore. So easy to fall out of good habits. I used to love sprouting seeds. I really must start again.
I haven’t heard of the dminder app. Great idea!
Thank you so much Gloria, I really appreciate your comment 🙂 I’m so glad this post was helpful for you. It really is easy to fall out of habits. I love sprouting seeds, it’s something I’ve only got into the last couple of years but I do it regularly now. Thank you again for getting in touch.