For most people, only 10-20 minutes of direct sun exposure is needed to get the daily amount of vitamin D. A simple walk around the block or a lunch outside is enough to get the job done. But did you know that for people with darker complexions, it can take up to 2 hours to produce nearly the same amount of vitamin D?
This is because of the natural sun blocking properties of melanin. Everyone has melanin, but it manifests itself differently depending on your environment. From an evolutionary standpoint, a “built-in” sunscreen makes total sense; people’s skin tones tend to match the climate that they are in (though this can take up to 1,000 years after migrating from one climate to another).† In climates with more sun exposure, people are more likely to have darker skin in order to metabolize the sun and get the most out of their environment (and the reverse is true as well).
This is explained by best-selling authors Dr. Roizen and Dr. Oz in the book You Being Beautiful:
“If you chart the evolution of skin color of the populations living in one area for 500 years, the curve perfectly correlates UV radiation with skin color. The only exception is the Inuit, who have dark skin and hair even though they inhabit northern climates; that’s because they eat lots of fatty fish, which provide vitamin D, so they don’t need it from the sun.” (45)
Fish has a tricky reputation in today’s world. Often times, it seems easier to just avoid it or eat it very sparingly, primarily due to mercury concerns. If you have lighter skin, fish as a vitamin D source may not be on your radar because 10-20 minutes of sunlight can do the trick. However, fatty fish can help give you the boost of vitamin D that you need in order to be healthy, especially as a person of color. After all, vitamin D deficiencies are linked to autoimmune diseases, rheumatoid arthritis, and cancer among other diseases, so it’s important to make sure that you’re getting enough — especially when a few minutes outside simply won’t cut it.
For more information about how to incorporate healthy fish into your diet, check out this article called “Iíll Have the Fish, Hold the Guilt.”
Image Credit:† Martin Male / Flikr
Book Credit: Roizen, M.F., & Oz, M.C. (2008). You Being Beautiful: The Owner’s Manual to Inner and Outer Beauty, 45.
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