Vitamin D is very important for keeping bones strong, bolstering the immune system, keeping at bay anxiety and depression, and lowering risk of certain types of cancer.

According to health specialists, more than 40 percent of people in the United States are deficient in vitamin D. That’s strange because the primary source of vitamin D is easily accessible and doesn’t come with a price tag — the sun shining above all of our heads!

While it’s true that there are foods that can provide your body with vitamin D — fatty types of fish, milk, cheese, egg yolks, beef liver and fortified food products — the sun is still the prime source of it. Your skin has cholesterol in it that is converted into vitamin D the minute it comes into contact with the sun, in particular the ultraviolet or UV rays it gives off.

Although there is no denying that exposure to the sun is an effective and cost-free way to get your daily dose of vitamin D, it doesn’t come without risks. Getting too much sun can cause premature aging of the skin and more importantly increase your risk of battling deadly skin cancer one day.

You can fend off wrinkles, liver spots, hyperpigmentation and skin cancer by dodging the sun, but such can deprive your body of much-needed vitamin D.

If you like to get majority of your vitamin D supply from the sun without increasing your risk of encountering problems related to excessive sun exposure, keep on reading. The following are some very simple tips on how to obtain vitamin D from the sun optimally and more importantly safely:

Avoid the Sun at Certain Times of the Day

Experts say that your body cannot convert cholesterol in your skin into vitamin D if your shadow is longer than your height. It only means that sun exposure very early in the morning or very late in the afternoon for you to get your stash of vitamin D is pointless.

The best time to get vitamin D from the sun is near the middle of the day. However, make sure that you stay away from the sun between 10 am and 4 pm — it’s during this time frame when your risk of having skin cancer is very high.

Spend 10 to 15 Minutes Under the Sun

In order for you to get ample vitamin D from the sun, see to it that you stay under it long enough for your body to obtain good amounts of the said nutrient. It is a good idea for you to expose yourself to the sun for 10 to 15 minutes each day in order to fend off vitamin D deficiency.

Got naturally-dark colored skin? Then you may have to devote a few more minutes of your time to being outdoors. The dark-colored skin pigment called melanin can fend off UV rays — the more melanin your skin has, the harder it is for the sun’s UV rays to come into contact with cholesterol in your skin and turn it into vitamin D.

Mind What You are Wearing

To maximize vitamin D production while you’re under the sun, make sure that you expose more skin to sunlight. There is no point in spending time outdoors to get your dose of vitamin D if you are wearing a jacket.

According to health authorities, you should expose about 1/3 of your body to the sun for you to get optimum amounts of vitamin D. Women should consider wearing a tank top and a pair of shorts to expose their arms, back, chest and legs to the sun. Men, if possible, may go topless to ensure maximum vitamin D production.

Avoid Taking a Shower or Bath Right Away

Just because you stepped foot inside your home after spending some time under the sun doesn’t mean that the conversion of cholesterol in your skin into vitamin D would stop — experts say that vitamin D is in fact still being generated in your skin after exposure to the sun.

This is the reason why it’s not a good idea for you to take a shower or bath right after getting your skin exposed to the sun. Scientists do not really know the optimal waiting time, but they are certain that it’s not a good idea for you to immediately head to the bathroom.

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