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The Sunshine Vitamin: Vitamin D

With summer here, being outdoors is a great way to spend your time. Not only can sunshine make us happier, but it also is a source of vitamin D. Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because our bodies are able to make vitamin D from sunlight.

Some people may believe that using a tanning bed or other type of artificial sun exposure helps produce vitamin D. However, sunlight is unique in that it has special properties (ultraviolet B photons) not found in the tanning beds that allow for vitamin D to be made in our bodies.

Research varies on the amount of sun needed to make vitamin D. Skin type, geographic location, time of day and the season all have an impact on the sun’s effect on vitamin D. A safe estimate of five to 15 minutes in the sun, with sunscreen, a few days a week should be enough.

Vitamin D is an important vitamin in our day-to-day lives. The roles of vitamin D include:

  • Promotes bone formation and strength
  • Strengthens immune system
  • Improves muscle function
  • Regulates blood pressure

While vitamin D can come from the sun, it is found in higher amounts in food sources. Vitamin D is not found in a lot of foods. Here is a list of some foods that have vitamin D in them:

  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Mushrooms
  • Eggs
  • Fortified cereals
  • Fortified milk and orange juice

Although the sun can help make vitamin D, you must wear sunscreen and limit your time in the sun to keep safe. Too much exposure from ultraviolet light can have harmful effects such as skin cancer.

What can you do in your community to promote good health for adults and children?

  • Be sure to demonstrate to children how to put on sunscreen and how much they need.
  • Have a sun safety day to teach children the importance of sunscreen and shade.
  • Sun safety also is important for adults. Explaining the importance of being safe from the sun includes protection against skin cancer and keeping your skin healthy. At the end of the day, give participants a small tube of sunscreen they can take home with them.

Check out this resource about how to stay safe from the sun:

For more information about vitamin D and recipe ideas


By Joleen Barnett, NDSU Extension Dietetic Intern
Reviewed by Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., Food and Nutrition Specialist


Filed under: fca newsletter

Sponsored in part by the Sanford Health Foundation.

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